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29 November 2004: Is Anyone Listening? (1 of 2)

I donít want to make anyone defensive, but has anyone ever noticed that teachers are often unaware of the moment when they lose their listening audienceóeven in their personal lives? I am a verbal processor. I have experienced various degrees of success in monitoring and responding to the attention of my friends and family, because when they quit listening, I canít manage them the way I manage my kids. But my experience has been that many, many teachers talk and talk, seeming to be ignorant of the glassy-eyed stare that is their audience. Of course, there is some camaraderie between teachers that allows for this, to a point. No one in my experience is more patient about listening to me vent about a student, or work through a lesson plan than my colleagues. They listen to me, or at least act like theyíre listening, because they know that I will reciprocate in their time of need. Plus, they know that Iíll be there to listen, as long as their time of need is before June 11.

30 November 2004: Is Anyone Listening? (2 of 2)

But once I was sure this audience ignorance thing was a pattern and not just a coincidence, I had to ask myself, is it the chicken or the egg? I mean, did these people who are obviously thirsty for an audience become teachers, subconsciously knowing that they would have thirty-two dedicated listeners? Or, more frightening, was it conscious? Some teachers, I admit I am one, have always talked like they had something important to say. Maybe they were teachers first, then got their classrooms. Or, was it the other way around? Have years of teaching forced these poor teachers to deprogram their audience monitor and continue talking long after the attention of their students has failed? I donít have to go far to observe teachers who are more concerned about moving through the strict pacing calendar, maintaining their lecture-style pedagogy, and ignoring those who get left behind. While there are many places where a teacherís personality enters into their teaching, I am at the moment more interested in where the teacherís personality enters into their own life.

01 December 2004: Justifiable Hiring Procedures (1 of 2)

When I was going through the hiring process for my first teaching job, I was both shocked and amused by the health exam the district required. In addition to the regular fingerprint-based background check, this very urban and impoverished school district paid for me to have a full physical, drug test, and breathalyzer test. Okay, the physical and the drug test make sense. I'm going to be getting health benefits, and working with young children, so that seems like a good way to get some relevant background information. But a breathalyzer? At a 10:30 am medical appointment? Not to trivialize their condition, but even the full-blown alcoholics I know can get through the morning without more than a latte. How could the district believe that a breathalyzer test on a Tuesday morning could give them any indication of my drinking habits? Well, a little something showed up in the news recently that I believe served to justify this policy.

02 December 2004: Justifiable Hiring Procedures (2 of 2)

According to an AP article on Yahoo! News, a fifth grade teacher in Louisville, KY was arrested for drunk driving on her way to school. The breathalyzer estimated her blood alcohol level to be .20, more than twice the legal limit of .08. This teacher had no disciplinary actions in her file, and had been teaching in the same district for nineteen years. She pleaded not guilty at her initial arraignment.

As you can imagine, I was shocked to read this article. I remember high school rumors of teachers drinking spiked coffee, and the assumption that the job was often so difficult that alcoholism was the only way to cope. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, it's less funny.

I came into the teaching profession with the benefit of having already explored several other careers. When I finally began teaching, what I expected proved to be true; I believe teaching to be the most emotionally exhausting carreer a person can have. Does that justify alcoholism? Putting yourself, your community and your students in danger by driving drunk with the intention of teaching drunk? Absolutely not. But, now I know why a breathalyzer test is required to get a job in some districts.

03 December 2004: That's What It's All About (1 of 5 )

The other day, I got a telephone call from a former student. Frank was in my fourth grade class last year, and one of those kids that you keep in a seperate emotional compartment than most of your students. He is intelligent, underperforming, neglected, artistic, popular, and a bully. Frank was for the most part raising himself, but demonstrated a longing for parental control. When I told him to bathe, wash his face, and brush his teeth every day, he did. Nearly the only time he ever did his homework was when he chose to stay after school to hang out. When he called, it was just to tell me about life at the school I'd moved away from. He told me about the trouble he'd been into and out of, his teacher, his friends, and movies and comic books he really appreciated. We talked for half an hour, and I was thrilled. After we hung up, I spent some time considering the ways that students love their teachers.

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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