Blue Serials (2/15/20)

This week’s Blue Serials largely features blogs and other online sources which have absolutely no need of a signal boost from me. Still, if they’re going to be so narcissistic as to create great content that’s not shared here FIRST, I should at least have the right to abscond it and use it for my own glorification. 

Plus, these are all, like… really good pieces. So there’s that.

Doug Robertson Weird TeacherDoug Robertson, aka “The Weird Teacher,” has been particularly shiny recently. If you’re not familiar with Robertson, he’s an elementary school teacher with blue hair, a motorcycle, and a love of the kind of music that used to frighten Congress in the 80s. He’s also the author of not one, but THREE of the best education-related books ever written – and I say that as a guy who’s not a big fan of many education books.

I’d already made a note to myself to talk about “One of Those Years” before I realized that, like Lay's potato chips, you can't read just one:

You can say, "It's been one of those years." And no one at work will question what you mean. Every single person gets it. Every single person at your school has had "one of those years."

Like, you don't often realize it right away. Maybe it was just a weird September, some years start weird. And October felt a little funny. November is always strange. And December doesn't count, December is always screwed up. But suddenly it's the end of January and things still haven't settled in? Oh...oh hell. It's one of those years, isn't it?

Doug has a gift for being alarmingly transparent and genuine without awakening up the Cheese Monster the rest of us seem to spawn whenever drifting into honest reflection. His humor cushions the rawness – is founded on it, in fact – and yet he lacks the sort of cynicism and bitterness I can’t help but radiate whenever I’m being genuine about, well… anything.

In other words, you should read the rest of “One of Those Years,” whether it’s for you at this very moment or not. Eventually, one way or the other, it will be.

Evil TwitterSpeaking of cynicism and bitterness, I was pleasantly appalled to discover that before I managed to finish loving one of Robertson’s posts, he’d made another I couldn’t ignore. I had to read it twice – once to enjoy it, and once to ask myself honestly whether or not it applied to me.

Don't worry, though – the results are in. I'm clean. Mostly. This week.

From “Hiding Behind Bad Jokes”:

Let's clear something up right now: Putting "Satire" or "Funny observations" {in your bio} does not absolve you of the responsibility of being coherent and responsible in your education tweets. For every anonymous education account that tweets well there are a dozen that are terrible at it.

That's right, friends and readers- this is a blog about education twitter. Strap in.

As someone who used to have standards and convictions of my own, I appreciate Doug’s fearlessness and candor. It’s all founded on what’s best for kids, even when sometimes that’s because it’s best for teachers as well. He's always relevant, even when he tries to confess that he's not, and his posts – like his books – are both poignant and funny, even when they hurt because they're too damn true.

If it sounds like I have a Twitter-crush on The Weird Teacher, I suppose I do. It’s the 21st century, kids – COME AT ME.

You can join the crush at hestheweirdteacher.blogspot.com and on Twitter by following @TheWeirdTeacher. It’s totally worth it, but remember – I saw him first and he probably loves me best.

Learning ScientistsThe Learning Scientists is (are?) new to me, although clearly they’ve been doing this awhile and have a pretty good idea what’s what in terms of pedagogy, child development, and online color scheme choices. Peter Greene at Curmudgucation shared this particular post, and despite his blog having approximately 18.4 million regular readers (including, I hope, every last one of you, my Eleven Faithful Followers), it seemed worth sharing again – just in case you missed it. 

The post is called “Learning ‘Useless’ Things in School is (Usually) NOT Useless” – a theme near and dear to my heart. I’m pretty sure a month is shaved off my life every time a student whine-asks, “Why do we have to KNOW this? When am I ever going to need to read, write, think, or otherwise demonstrate understanding and reason in REAL life?!?” or some variation thereof.

Apparently, I’m not alone.

The practice you received using mathematical formulas in primary school likely makes you faster at solving problems that involve mathematics in “real life”. You are also likely better able to understand complex situations that involve math (e.g. political arguments regarding economics). While you may not whistle a tune on a recorder as an adult, those musical lessons helped you to be able to pick up a different musical instrument, enjoy a complex piece of music, or just appreciate the fact that, even if you don’t like the music, Tool is made up of extremely talented musicians.

The challenge facing teachers is to prepare a diverse set of students for later situations that are not only varied, but likely different from ones we can even imagine in our current time. As technology rapidly changes our world, our instructors are set with the task of attempting to make students ready for whatever that future world will throw at them. I would argue that teaching broad knowledge is the best way to do this. Those 8-year-olds could have any number of future professions and future situations. One of them might even take their kid to an aquarium as an adult. Teaching broad knowledge in the only way to prepare students for the broad world they are going to encounter.

And the people said... “Amen!”

Imagine living in a society where the most basic facts and reasoning had ceased to be a factor in political policy, or in which we no longer valued efforts to genuinely understand the world around us. It would be, what’s the term...?

Oh, yes... “GREAT AGAIN.”

You can “Amen” the Learning Scientists yourself at www.learningscientists.org/blog and on Twitter at @AceThatTest. I’m certainly going to.

Three Teachers TalkThree Teachers Talk is NOT new to me, although the actual number of teachers “talking” through the site is closer to three dozen (or maybe three zillion) these days. If you’re a middle school or high school English teacher, or any teacher of anything at any level, actually, and you’re not reading 3TT regularly, well... you’re doing education wrong and probably ruining all of your students.

Shana Karnes is one of THE “Three” in the title, and her musings on “The Rollercoaster of a Teaching Career” are not to be missed. And, unlike a literal rollercoaster, you’re VERY unlikely to throw up at the end...

The truth is, teaching is an unsustainable profession if we don’t give ourselves permission to curate. When I was brand new, single, and 21, I relished the fact that I beat the principal to school every day. I loved spending 12 hours in my perfectly-lit, freshly-painted classroom.

But now that I have children, a home, and a slew of other responsibilities to care for, I have to curate. I may not have the most Pinterest-worthy classroom in the future. I may not have the neatest classroom library; I may not sponsor three clubs; I may not volunteer to be on all the committees. But I will be able to do the work I love, which is having a life that allows me to take my daughters to soccer practice and read my students’ fascinating essays from the sidelines.

Karnes writes concisely and honestly while maintaining a degree of eloquence that leaves my innermost regions trembling ever-so-slightly. You’ve no doubt read about and discussed amongst yourselves the oft-dismissed need for teacher/real-life balance before – but you haven’t read it quite this way before.

Let’s get on that, shall we? And while you're at it, keep up with TTT at threeteacherstalk.com and on Twitter at @3TeachersTalk. You can also follow Karnes at @litreader.

Dr. Andre PerryFinally, there’s this provocatively titled piece from the Hechinger Report – another Curmudgucation recommendation and another organization new to me (but remaining new no longer): “Dress Codes Are the New ‘Whites Only’ Signs.”

Damn. Are they TRYING to make Tucker Carlson fling rage-spittle onto our screens?

Upon actual perusal of the article, however, what we’re really talking about is the banning of blackness – particularly black hair styles – in the name of institutional dress codes. It's a defiant bit of writing, and part of me wants to challenge the underlying anger or question the connections made by the author, Dr. Andre Perry.

The problem is that he's right about all of it – so that kinda renders any discomfort on the part of the reader their problem.

Those who would have us return to a period of legal segregation don’t need to bring back signposts to separate us when they can discriminate in other ways, simply on the basis of how we look, how we dress, and how we wear our hair.

When dress codes reinforce white norms, being black becomes a violation...

DeAndre Arnold has attended the Barbers Hill Independent School District his entire life; in high school, he grew his hair into locs. However, before winter break, the principal of Barbers Hill High School placed DeAndre, a senior, in in-school suspension and told him that he would not be able to attend classes, prom, or even his graduation, because his dreadlocks violated the dress code. To notify DeAndre months before graduation that he was being suspended for his hair doesn’t make much sense, but racism isn’t logical...

In response to news stories about the school’s decision to suspend DeAndre, the Barbers Hill Superintendent tweeted that it’s important to hold black students to high expectations, implying that dreadlocks are linked to bad performance. Except hair has nothing to do with academic standards or college readiness. The frivolous use of this dress code to prevent students from graduating is about exerting authority over and controlling black people. Black people should not, cannot change themselves to fit white norms.

Keep up with the Hechinger Report at hechingerreport.org and on Twitter at @hechingerreport. You can find Dr. Perry on Twitter at @andreperryedu.

Meghan's Lunch BoxThat's it for this week my #11FF. There's still time to Share the Love as a guest blogger this month or suggest blogs, articles, or other online content you believe other educators might find useful, encouraging, or maddening. Email me at BCE@BlueCerealEducation.com and let me know what's on your mind.

I also have a few things I'm offering on Teachers Pay Teachers – the infamous Blue Cereal document activities exploring the Underground Railroad and the Oil Boom (but not at the same time, because... chronology) and my resource book "Have To History": Landmark Supreme Court Cases. Not trying to get rich off of any of them, but Grandma needs cat food and Grandpa needs a left shoe.

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