Friday, June 24, 2011

To thine own self be true.

While it is not clear that Polonius meant the same by this phrase as I do here, it is important stuff.

"To thine own self be true."

Polonius may well have meant by this to have your actions consistent with what he considered to be good character - represent yourself well by your actions.  Today, we extend this expression to include that one's actions should be consistent with one's ideals, beliefs, and thoughts - that we may know the person by their actions, deeds, and expressions.

This is so important to live.  People are happier, more comfortable in their own skins, self-assured, when they behave like the people they are.  This is the kind of message that we impart to children (our own, our children's friends, and in my case - also my students).

Our children should let their actions and words reflect themselves - and the best of themselves.  This can be a self-check to insure that they are keeping their thoughts, minds, and deeds healthy and compassionate.  If you wouldn't say it or do it in front of your grandmother - you shouldn't say it or do it.

We need, however, to be aware of what this expression means to a broad diversity of people.

I attended a meeting last week... there was a young man there who was worried. He was moving to a foreign country and he was worried about how he would be perceived.  What if he wanted to date someone local, would it be legal?  Could he just be himself there?  Would he need to worry about being arrested?  Should he lie about who he is?

As a married, middle-aged mom - I don't have tothink about this; I can give my husband a kiss in public, hold hands, and share an intimate moment on date night.  But, in our ultra-religious community, if I were gay - whether I could express myself safely would be a constant theme in my life.  To whom can I be honest without worrying about repercussions for myself, my children, my partner, my job...

We need, as compassionate people, to find a way to let people be true to their own selves.  As long as everyone involved in any relationship is consenting (and able to consent) - no one else need worry or even think about what dynamics are involved.

If you never have - attend a PFLAG meeting, it may open your eyes.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ugly and counterproductive.

At one of my favorite blogs today, there is a battle going on.  It is the same old story - mommy wars.

In this case, it has to do with premarital sex and who has the goods on the right way to prevent it, deal with it, or educate children.  This is the same old thing though... people trying to make themselves feel better by belittling others.  It is as though we never grew past the "mean girl" stage in middle school.

Did you breastfeed your kids? 
In public?
No, really, did you exclusively nurse for long enough?
Did your child lead weaning?
Did you cut them off when nursing wasn't appropriate anymore?
Do you feed them right?
You didn't give solids too soon, did you?
You don't give them junk food?  Or (gasp) soda?
Did you work out of the house?
Are you setting the example that moms should be separated from their children?
Are you able to be nurturing when you are away all day?
Did you stay home?
Are you sending the wrong message about the capabilities of women?
Do you hover too much?
Are you there enough?
Do your kids get dirty?
Don't you let them play outside?
Do you take them to a house of worship?
Is it the right one?
If not, how will they know right from wrong?
Did you homeschool?
How will they ever be socialized?
Do they go to public school?
How will they ever learn the right stuff?
Do they go to private school?
Isn't that elitist?

Is is just possible that there is more than one way to raise children and have it work out?

How about we just try to support one another?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Math phobia - it's contagious.

I have been reading a lot recently about how much much we lack in math.  "Math skills are lacking".  "Kids hate math".  "Math curricula flawed".  "U.S. behind in math and science training".  I attribute no small part of that to the teachers themselves.  I am not implicating the curricula (which definitely lack).  I am not blaming the children.  It isn't just that parents have trouble helping in new (new, new, newer) [name your mathematics teaching revolution here] math.  I think that we need to start with the teachers.

I didn't just decide to vilify other teachers overnight. This notion has grown over a decade of observing teachers. I've watched lots of teachers... daycare teachers, elementary education teachers, elementary education counselors, high school teachers, other college professors, and teachers of teachers (college education professors).  Over and over, I see the same behavior, hear the same concerns, and when students here these words over and over - they learn that this approach is acceptable, normal, and correct.

"I hate math".  "I can't do math".  "When I heard that there was math involved, I quit".  "Math is too hard for me".  This is what I keep hearing teachers say.  Sometimes, I have heard this in front of students.  Sometimes, it is just the attitude that they carry into the classroom.

If kids hear that math is scary, bad, difficult, and not worthy of  working hard to learn - what do you suppose that they learn?

At a recent teaching conference, for college professors, a math professor used a mathematical concept as the grist for examining a new teaching method.  They chose an easy topic, so that we could focus on how the method works.  The concept that we covered (just as grist for exploring a teaching method), was learning the characteristics of the following quadrilaterals: rhombus, parallelogram, square, rectangle, and trapezoid.    I was gobsmacked - the math fear evoked by learning (oooooh) SHAPES had some college professors ready to walk out.  Other college professors laughed in their seats that, "I don't do math", and they listened, but didn't participate.

If a generation of college professors finds it amusing, acceptable, and even funny that they can't describe four-sided shapes - no wonder our math teaching is going to hell in a handbasket.

Folks - I get it, you found math intimidating.  But, as teachers, you have a responsibility to approach learning as fun exercise.  You will never find me telling my students that I don't do english,  I don't do writing, I don't do art, music, or whatever.  I certainly recognize my weaknesses - but, like fine music - even if I can't make it - I should be able to appreciate it when I hear it.