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Year 21 – Musings, Mutterings and “Mentionings”

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I am not retiring.  I get asked quite often when I am retiring (including last Saturday at a friend’s 60th birthday party).  Maybe the problem is that my friends are having 60th birthday parties (…pondering).  The oddest place this year was on the night rising 7th grade students come over in February to walk around the school.  A parent that I did not know asked me when I was retiring; not sure how to take the question.

I love how my relationships with my children are changing.  Caitlin is on her own andFassold Family at Scher Wedding - June 2018 thriving as a nurse in the NICU at Riley Children’s Hospital.  She has settled into the adult world with her normal humor and sass.  She cares deeply about her work and empathizes with nervous parents and works hard to be a comfort during the family’s stay at Riley.  Ally enters her senior year at Ball State engaged to be married next June–you need to keep an eye on the boys that move across the street.  Ally was selected for a PAID (thank you) internship this summer at Kohl’s (her high school and college job).  It says a lot about her that her former store manager recommended her to apply.  As a family we laugh with, and at, each other, hang out, play games, go to movies; gone is the day-to-day parenting responsibilities, replaced by the results of all the hard work that Laurel and I put into our children.  Laurel and I still worry and wonder what their futures hold, but we love this stage.

Mike BeresfordMy friend and colleague Mike Beresford is moving to become the Superintendent at Carmel Schools.  Mike and I have been friends for 20 years.  We did life together through church, kids, and school.  One of the real genuine humans in my life.   Carmel is getting a great person that will build relationships and center each decision on what is best for kids, community and teachers; never what is best for him.  Devoid of self-aggrandizement.  This is the last nice thing that I will say about Carmel; I still do not like Carmel…rivalries live!

I wish we handled iPads like Noblesville schools.  Noblesville controls the apps andFortnite permission on every student device.  If the student has their own device, Noblesville will have them store their settings to the cloud and will wipe the personal device and put it under district control.  VPNs and Fortnite would disappear.  I like technology in the classroom, but the temptation is too great for my students…those pesky Snapface (Bill Belichick would be proud of my social media prowess) notifications.  Unfortunately, no matter the lesson my 12 and 13 year old kids cannot resist the temptation that social media and games represent.  Until the device can be focused and monitored it detracts more than it adds.  Now this may enrage the “put the kids in charge of their own education” crowd need to sit in a junior high cafeteria and watch them on their devices; the last thing that they are doing is furthering education; unless drawing in a sandbox, slaying rivals, and jumping objects is education.

MLK - Anybody Can ServeOur school-wide Day of Service was a wonderful experience for the entire school.  I feel blessed to teach at a school that embraces service and the whole school as learning platform.  The amount of work put in by the Day of Service committee and our very own “Father” Mike Jansen paid off.  I hope this becomes a yearly tradition and spreads to other schools.  Students talked about the day for days after the Day of Service.  Many asked if we were going to do it again next year.

I have been pondering HSE21.  As with most ponderings of mine there is a bias bestpracticesmodel_hse21_standalonegraphic_2017_05_24.jpgtowards my own beliefs.  It appears to me that there are a couple of programs that should be the shining examples of HSE21 that never really get mentioned nor recognized as such.  Liz Paternoster and Janet Chandler’s high school, Patrick Bradshaw’s junior high program at Fall Creek and my We the People class seem to check off every single part of the HSE21 and even addresses the idea of authentic audiences, performance pressure, RIGOR and the concept of grit.  The program is a lot work, but the rewards are untouched in the growth seen in students.  Of course, I recognize my bias.  I would offer there are other examples in the district (e.g, Mock Trial, Model UN, Speech Team’s Congress and Debate, Robotics club, etc.) that should be touted as paragons of 21st Century learning.

Einstein Statue with the Boys - May 2018

Tony Sturgeon and I have finished our 21st year of teaching together.  I have never known education without my educational partner in crime.  We push each other to be better every year.  This past year he took on a third prep as the English teacher for my We the People team.  He spent an entire summer resurrecting his History degree (English is his minor).  It was fun to watch him go from interested in government and politics to listening to the Supreme Court arguments like a fan-boy.  It is fun to watch him grow into an even better teacher after all these years.  He, Kevin Stumpf and Dave Broviak have been a backbone in the school.  I treasure our friendship.  Of course, in the Spring we found out a young teacher in our building refers to us as the “old men on the corner”.  I love reminding them of the label.

A interesting thought pranced (visualize me prancing) through my mind when reflecting on the things that make FJH special; one key is our Functional Academic Program led by the one-of-a-kind Andy Schomburg.  His program is fun, academic, interactive and a constant hive of activity; but that is not what makes it great by itself.  It is watching the student body make his kids part of our school.  Every passing period kids engage Andy’s kids.  There is a line to sign up to come during BEST to help and the Peer Tutor program is beyond popular.  The program is part of the life-blood and heart-beat of Fishers Junior High.

There is no more perfect food than Cool-Whip.

Open house season always reminds me of the importance of Camp Tecumseh.  Counselors make up a good percentage of the open houses that I attend.  At its core is the outdoor education opportunity for my 7th grade students  It stillTecumseh - Chasing Balloons - 2018 thrills me watching my 7th grade students run across the field chasing a tissue paper balloon…it is that moment when they are for probably the last time…a pure child.  The program has continued to evolve thanks to Deb Kletch our resident science geek.  We have worked hard to turn our academic portion of Camp into a model program that takes full advantage of the acreage.  Kletch has brought all kinds of new science lessons including my favorite which has the studentsTardigrades3-949x475 looking for Tardigrades…of as Sturgeon calls them “Water Bears”.  The kids scrape smalls amounts of tree moss and go to the nature center looking for these microscopic organisms.  The best part is when they find so many other things.  Beyond the lesson improvements Tecumseh’s core has been the leadership of high school counselors and relationships built between teachers and students in the Tecumseh classroom.  Watching teachers having fun with students humanizes the relationship.  It is fun to watch.  Lastly the most special part of Camp is the chance to reconnect with former students when they become counselors.  Watching them lead their groups warms my heart.  Normally Tecumseh - Counselors - 2018 - Session 2teachers never get to see their students once they move on from the school; I have always thought that would be the hardest part of teaching elementary school.  These kids represent the very best of today’s youth.  Saying goodbye at breakfast on the last time tears at my heart; it is worth it to see them excel in a one-of-a-kind leadership position.  There is no substitute for this program.  It amazes me that so many of our staff go and jump right into the action.  We don’t ask much other than “management by walking around” and interacting with kids during programs.  When I retire it will be tough to step away from Camp most of all.

I love when Sturgeon rages against the Star Wars fanatics who trash every new Star Wars movie.  I just like to listen.

This year’s 7th grade students caused me much reflection.  They are the iPad generation. That manifests in both positive and negative ways.  I had kids in every class that augmented every lesson by searching in real time information from my lessons and bringing the search information into the class discussion.  At the same time, other kids would check Snapchat for notifications at every turn.  This year proved John Hattie’s research that feedback was critical to student success; however, feedback has a cost; time.  Without the constant feedback a large percentage (about 30%) would just stop.  This resulted in an educational Sophie’s Choice of failing 30% or 5%.  While the choice seems easy there are ramifications to each.  I chose the 5%, but was nearly 2 months behind; this is not a big deal on some levels, but my kids missed some treasured experiences (e.g., Tang Dynasty Poetry project, Feudal Japan, etc.).

This summer I am merging concepts from the British’s Knowledge Organizers, a Little Harrybritain-1939-75-knowledge-organisers Wong, and John Hattie’s research into a series of brand-new lessons with the idea of tightening the lessons without losing what works.    My goal is to front end assignments with the knowledge literacy so that I can work towards the understanding, connections, and analysis of information.  The idea is to take the mystery out of the background information and focus on the application of information.  By aggregating the changes should allow me to continue to focus on metacognition and long term learning goals.

Invictus

I waited to the end of the post to talk about my Weoples.  When looking at this past year there was no greater moment than watching my hard-working 8th graders standing on stage reciting Invictus after winning a national championship.  It is hard to explain to the lay person, because someone on the outside does not always see the work and struggle.  When watching my kids recite the poem Invictus from memory and knowing that they understood every message contained in the stanzas.  They pushed past the questions about last year’s team; they tackled hard Constitutional issues in a age of political turmoil with a gusto not normally seen in society.  They simplyAlchemis tackled every challenge; they reminded me of one of my favorite books given to me years ago by the Risinger family titled The Alchemist.  The book has a quote in it that sums up their journey.  Each time they suffered a setback they would come back stronger and more determined.  It defined the team.  They held on to the fear of failure and used that to push themselves to be better.  There were moments during the competition that are forever etched in my mind.  Day 3 competition was their best.  Every unit peaked.  I remember standing with Unit 4 after their performance; watching the smiles dominate their faces, because they knew.  They knew they crushed the round; all the hard work paid off.  They were champions on that day, because they took everything that was thrown at them and did not retreat.  I will miss these kids; they are fun to be around.  Their text messages have entertained my trivia group (for some reason they texted me Weople-questions on Thursdays).  They so desperately wanted to understand everything; not just for competition, but for their own worldview.  The class is filled with future leaders and world changers.  Better than anything these kids see the wonder of the world.  They are in my heart.

I have public thank yous to make, but I want to publish this blog before it becomes a book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Takes a Village to Raise a Weople

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Lost in my post about my Weoples winning State is the role that my previous teams have had in helping this year’s team.

My team from last year starting helping this year’s team from the moment they were selected.  Unit chats were developed and phone numbers exchanged.  Carrying on the tradition from previous year advice was freely given to the new team.

The support was not fleeting.  There were library meetings (a tradition started by my first team to the second team), late night chats, paper editing and, most importantly, a sympathetic ear when times were tough.

On the morning of Regionals my students started arriving school only to be greeted by

well-wishes in chalk under the front entrance overhang.  Every unit from the previous year wrote words of encouragement.  At the front entrance the names of every team member was written in front of Door 1.  It was interesting watching kids trying not to step on the words as they entered.  It was not lost on my team.  They read each concrete block.  They felt supported.  They knew that they were part of something that transferred from one year to the next.  This connected tissue is important.  It provides a sounding board for those who understand the worries, expectations, hard work, struggles, and fears.  20171116_142623

This support continued with text messages and social media posts.  When the kids won Regionals their and my phone filled with congratulations and emojis.  There was even cake when the kids returned.

Shannon Alexander who I previously thanked in my blog post on last year’s team winning Nationals also helped us by creating a Web-store exclusively for our We the People featuring a custom logo designed by her sister last year.  This funding stream will allow us to better our program with new class resources for future teams.

 

 

So to my past Weoples and their supportive families…thank you.  Your help, support, and love has made a difference.  #invictus

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Fishers Junior High School 2016-2017 We the People – National Champions

 

 

We the People Team Photo at State - Dec 2015

Fishers Junior High School 2015-2016 We the People – State Runner-Up

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Fishers Junior High School 2014-2015 We the People – State Runner-Up

 

My We the People Team Repeats as State Champions

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Regional Championship Photo - IBF

2017 We the People Central Regional Champions

If winning once in Indiana is hard; winning back-to-back is a Sisyphean task.  The state’s competition is brutally tough due to, in no small measure, to Mike Potts’ Brown County team.  Last year, we won surprising ourselves, and I assume others, simply because of the dominance of Brown County over the entire history of Middle School We the People competition.  We honored the victory by carrying it over to a National Championship (which of course is something that Brown County has experienced twice).

 

FB_IMG_1493749877608This year’s team faced a pressure that none of my teams ever truly faced…living up to the previous year’s success.  Over and over these 30 kids had to endure the expectations of victory and the subtle, and not so subtle, reminders that last year’s team won.  Every single Weople knows three things: (1) there is a lot of material, (2) it is a lot of work, and (3) you cannot hide when you are in competition.

 

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Photo Leaving Fishers Junior High in November

People asked me about this year’s team pretty quickly after tryout’s last year; my response was always the same–they are a more talented team, but I will see if they are more resolute.  Well that question was answered on December 12th (my birthday).  These kids are tough.

 

In Round 1 there were some missed opportunities, but never did they panic.  They listened, they expanded, they grew and they kept moving forward.  There were fantastic moments when they brought tears to my eyes.  It was the second round when they stood

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Delivering the State Trophy to Mrs. Thorpe’s office –there is so much joy on their faces.

out.  It was in that second round when I stopped writing questions and just watched.  It was a perfect moment wrapped into 2 hours.  Unit after unit pushed forward.  Opinions became more natural, references became cleaner, and I watched my team, so full of promise, live up to that promise.  It was …. a perfect moment.  I have felt it before, but not so often that I do not crave the next one.

 

InvictusAs with every team before them they recite Henley’s poem, “Invictus”.  In the beginning of the year the words probably yielded meaning, but not understanding.  At Regionals they began to show understanding; at State they knew.  They knew that the “fell clutch of circumstance” was competition.  Their work, their unit family, their team would find them “unafraid”.  Most importantly, they understood that they were the masters of their fate and the captains of their souls.  When we circled (or “shaped” as Sturgeon called it) and recited the words there were tears from them; from their teachers that supported and challenged them, and maybe a few tears from the families that came to watch the unexplainable.  [I have always struggled to describe We the People to the layman].

At the end of Round 2 there was the elephant in the room that I needed to address.  I told them the story of how we came to this moment; described each of the prior teams; took us through the sorrows and joys; and rightfully told them that this was the best team performance I had seen at state…HOWEVER, I told them, and the families, that they needed to be prepared for victory AND defeat.  It was a hushed room moment.  I have told them all year that Brown County is a proud program led by a great teacher and that they will work as hard or more than us if we falter.

Sitting in the beautiful ballroom waiting for the results a calm fell over me.  I don’t know why.  Normally I need to remind my heart to beat and my lungs to seek refreshment.  It took awhile for me to understand.  My kids were perf20171212_091159ect.  They climbed past every obstacle and pressure.  They delivered in the tensest of moments.  They did not wince, nor cry aloud.  They did all that was possible.  They were perfect.  No matter their finishing place; they could not have done more.

 

2017 We the People Middle School State Champions

I barely remember Collin Gruver calling 2nd Place to Brown County; I watched Mike’s team show class, as they always do; knowing full well that they were also perfect.

 

The next day when we received the final scores our margin of victory was less than one half of one percent.  The narrowest margin in Indiana Middle School history.  The microscopic gap would be a rounding error in accounting; the gap between second and third was large.

GibranLastly, before the first round I read to them a passage from my favorite book, “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran on Work.  It changed my life when I first read it.  These kids worked as if the people that loved them the most would watch their performance.  It was work not done for a grade; it was work done with love.  I wept when I read the whole passage to them, because I was talking about them.  They were the living examples of what it is to work with love.  This will carry them for the next five months when the learning becomes deeper, the material harder, the expectations greater.  But I am not worried, because they work with love.

As always there are people that I need to thank.

  • My Weoples / Angels / Hoodlums.  They trusted me to get them ready.  They put up with demands, the penalties for hand raising, Kings of the Mountain, work with no grades, learning to take notes, no BEST periods in the beginning, and so many more demands.  They are fun.  We laugh.  They make me laugh.  They have grown so much.
  • Tony Sturgeon and Kevin Stumpf.  Without them I would be lost.  They ground me in the big moments.  My wife remarked at State competition how the three of us just seemed to know what needed to be done and did it.  They make it so I can concentrate on the kids and competition.  They are my brothers.
  • Crystal Thorpe.  Thank you for believing in me four years ago.  I have documented her support in previous blogs; so I will just summarize.  When it would be easier to say “no”, she said “yes”.  Schedule nightmares did not matter to her; what mattered was a program that would benefit kids.
  • Indiana Bar Foundation.  Indiana is blessed to the a State Assembly that funds the We the People program through the IBF.  They provide first-class training in the Summer Institute and the Birmingham Institute.  More importantly, every person at the Foundation is there to help teachers reach kids.  The program is first class.

I am sure that I should write more and hope to soon.

 

 

My Weoples are National Champions!

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I am on the long bus ride back to Fishers and the sounds of snoring, math questions, laughing, the odd of yelling of “Yahtzee”, and every now and then my phone beeps with another pic of one of babies sleeping.  With my earbuds in and songs from a random playlist filtering out the road; my mind is still trying to place their accomplishment in my mind palace.  Euphoria, satisfaction, and a profound sense of sadness take turns dominating my inner voice.

My mind replays my team powerfully reciting from memory Henley’s Invictus to an enthusiastic crowd of family, supporters, Civic Education staff.  When I see all the photos of that moment that dominate my social media feeds I can see the joy on their faces; not just the joy that comes from a moment of happiness, but the joy that comes from the achievement of dreams; dreams that require work unseen, dreams that require a unwavering commitment, dreams that are shadowed by the fear of the disappointment of coming up short.  Their faces so alive that it lifts the hope and spirits of all who witnessed the moment.

This blog is hard to write.  My mind drifts and for awhile the path is unclear.  So I will default to the way I way raised.  There are a lot of people that need to be thanked:

  1. Crystal Thorpe.  I have said it before and I will repeat myself.  It has been a 20170505_121640blessing to work for Crystal; four years ago I asked her to create an anomaly in our schedule by having me teach one 8th grade class without breaking our strong 7th grade teaming of kids.  The easiest answer for her would have been “no”.  She did what she always does.  She saw the potential of the idea as being good for kids and she said, “yes”.  We have had no bigger cheerleader.  She supports the team without any thought of glory for herself.  My kids could not wait to put the trophy on her desk which they started after Regionals.
  2. Kevin Stumpf. #firestumpf  My brother and my rock.  Kevin has been with me 20170501_115256since the first day.  He handles the small details so that I can concentrate on the kids during competition.  In the second year he added responsibility by working with Unit 6 as their personal advisor.  He takes a TON of grief as the room gate keeper that resulted in Holly Kempfer starting the #firestumpf movement.  This year’s team and parents kept the tag alive.  He dared ask me if I still needed him after our Nationals win.  If I had a stick I would have hit him.  He is the rudder to our ship.  When we were in DC he handled everything about the trip.  He does so without complaint and avoids the spotlight.  There is no one that has been more important to me during the three years of having a We the People team.
  3. Tony Sturgeon.  Outside my family, there is no one that knows me as well as Tony. FB_IMG_1494513309615 He keeps finding ways to help.  During the year he hears papers and makes suggestions.  Anytime I need an audience for my kids during lunch he is there.  Most importantly for me, he knows when I need help.  My heart becomes tender when it deals with friends, family and my students.  There was a moment at Nationals when I knew we won; my brain fogged and my heart ached for my kids. In that moment; the year passed over my memory and all the sacrifices that my kids made to get to this moment overwhelmed me. Tony reached over and put his arm around me; because 20 years of friendship means something
  4. Dave Broviak.  The last member of the BFM.  He attended Regional competition to get a better handle on the traits needed for kids on the We the People team.  Like Kevin and Tony, he immediately set about helping.  When the fire alarm when off just before we were to start he walked among the kids keeping them loose.  He tried to help Kevin handle judges and protect him from the #firestumpf campaign; he failed but the effort was appreciated.
  5. The Staff at Fishers Junior High.  My words are inadequate.  The staff raised Fassold T-Shirt Picture at DCenough money to send two of my kids to DC.  However, their support was more than money.  Kim Rowe wrote notes of encouragement to every unit.  Gifts and encouragements were offered at every turn.  Kelly Watson made gift baskets for every kid and reminded them of how hard they have worked to  be ready.  Her generosity extended to me.  She gifted me a We the People gold tie that I wore on our first competition day.  Beyond the tangible support was the genuine good wishes and offers of help.  It warmed my heart and still does.  Of course, there were some shenanigans associated with a certain t-shirts that my kids unveiled in DC.  #firestumpf #firemodglin #firethorpe
  6. The Indiana Bar Foundation.  The Indiana Bar Foundation and State House has made a commitment to civic education.  The State has made a financial commitment to the We the People program and the Indiana Bar Foundation supports every school that adopts the program.  Our regional and state competitions are first rate and set the tone of excellence in the state.
    1. Chuck Dunlap.  I first met Chuck at the We the People High School Nationals in 2013 when I represented Liz Paternoster when her due date matched the competition dates.  Chuck found me at the semi-finals meeting and helped me navigate through all the details.  He made the unknown known.  I have never forgotten his kindness.  It was Chuck that made every thing happen for us when starting our program.  Of course it was Chuck who was taking pictures at the Invitational awards ceremony and captured so many great moments.  He has a special place in my team’s heart.
    2. Lily Lawson.   My ignorance of starting a We the People team was balanced with all of Lily’s guidance and help.  She has put up with my questions for three years.  Our first Regional appearance was made easier, because Lily made things happen that I did not even know needed to happen.  She remembers the small details like how many of our parents attend competition.  She always makes sure we have a big room with lots of chairs.  She is a treasure.
  7. Bob Leming and the We the People Organization.  It is hard to put into words the impact that Bob and the Civic Ed / We the People organization have had on me.  I 20170501_092111am not so young anymore, but my involvement in this program has inspired me to bring civics to my students and community.  Bob Leming’s dedication is unmatched.  There was a moment at the Invitational that shook my kids.  He watched my Unit 3 compete on the second day when they started to debate the idea of an energetic president from the Federalist Papers.  As my kids shifted from the past to the present and reciting concepts and 20170429_130510ideas from the Federalist Papers and Thomas Paine; my kids noticed that Bob had tears in his eyes.  It proved to my kids how important this program is to people and to the country.  Seeing Chuck Quigley enter the room meant a lot to our program.  He is a national treasure and his role in We the People and Civic Education over the last 30 years has been crucial in the programs expansion and quality.
  8. Shannon Alexander.  Words fail me.  I asked for help at our parent meeting after Shannon Alexanderwe won State.  I was in uncharted territory; I had never prepared a team for National competition before and it meant that I needed to write a second semester program.  What I could not do is balance the fundraising.  Shannon volunteered immediately and she rolled up her sleeves and went to work.  She led our campaign to raise money.  She wrote every update on our GoFundMe and sought out every chance to raise money.  Her efforts resulted in raising over $30,000 for our trip.  When I felt overwhelmed she would post something that reminded me just how special our journey has been.  Shannon never wavered; she never lost strength.  Shannon was not a one-person show.  Bindiya Fotedar, Michelle Koley, and Rani Colzani played major roles in fundraising and making arrangements while in DC.  Of course, the Conde family took care of our banners.  So many families pitched in at fundraisers and dragged family and friends to all our events.  I owe them all a great debt.
  9. The Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers community.  So many schools helped our journey.   Sand Creek Intermediate PTO, Cumberland Road, Hoosier Road, Fishers High School, Sand Creek Intermediate Student Council; school board members, front office staff, city of Fishers members, and teachers from across the district.  The support touched us and was greatly appreciated.  Todd Zimmerman from the City Council was a constant source of support; including coming into my class to talk to my kids after the election about vertical federalism.  His clarity of understanding of Federalism helped out my kids; they actually used some of his talk in their follow up at State.
  10. Larry Lannan.  My favorite local journalist.  “Larry in Fishers” is channel for local 2017-01-04 12.27.55news.  He attends everything in Fishers and came into my class to talk about “Fake News” and the role of the press in government.  Larry also served as a practice judge for me in the run up to the Invitational.  Larry is a selfless man; he has faithfully covered our journey and after we returned he came in and created a podcast about my kids’ journey.  You can listen to the podcast at: Podcast with Larry Lannon and the 2016-2017 FJH We the People Team
  11. My former students.  Nearly 100 of our GoFundMe donations came from my 20170429_093849former students; it warmed my heart no matter the size of the donation.  Each name brought back a precious memory and moment.  So many students from the long ago past helped my students of the present.  Some of those even came in to help my team; Alex “Lordly” Orlowski helped us as a practice judge and Carolyn Homer came to talk with my kids in DC on Saturday morning to go over papers and lead discussions.  It is one of the most rewarding times in my teaching career.
  12. My friends and family.  I was touched by my family and friends.  High school friends, military friends, and Indiana friends all chipped in to help get my team to DC.  It warmed my heart.  I had friends raise money through their business to help.
    Every time I checked it seemed like another person from my blood and past donated to my kids.  More than money was the encouragement that we received.   It made the journey easier.  Even my beloved trivia team, “Mike and the Mechanix” (80’s homage–thanks Bryce) helped get my kids to DC.  They mean more to me than they know.
  13. Liz Paternoster.  Eleven years ago a ball of civic energy named Liz WtP Demo Night 42317 (5)Bailey approached me to help our her We the People team.  I did not know what to say to the request since I had no earthly idea about the We the People program.  It took me a couple years to understand and begin to appreciate the impact of the program.  Her passion inspired and continues to inspire me.  I can’t wait for her to reap the benefits of our junior high program.
  14. Janet Chandler.  My friend.  Janet inspires me to be a better teacher.  There is no WtP Demo Night 42317 (14)better example of a servant-teacher’s heart.  Janet lived in my classroom in our last couple weeks before we left for DC.  Despite an impossible schedule she found time to come and support my kids every day.  She listened, she critiqued, she taught, and she worked with every unit…even Unit 1 which is not her favorite subject.  She lives the ideal that Khalil Gibran writes about in his book, The Prophet about “work is love made visible”.
  15. Laurel. This year has been exhausting; all of my own doing, but Laurel picked up the slack for me.  I have been tired and work all the time; I love her more for being so understanding.  She talks up the program to others and came to Demonstration Night to watch my kids perform…it meant a lot to me.  Her support made the year easier.
  16. My first and second Weople teams.  Without them there is not a National FJHS We the People Team Photo After Districts - Vax Photo - November 3Championship in my room.  Those teams have been so supportive of my current team.  Past units met with current units on Saturdays to offer support and advice.  Group chats were established and lessons were shared.   My first year kids set such a high bar when they finished second at the state We the People Team Photo at State - Dec 2015competition by such a small margin.  My second year kids improved so much from the first year as we addressed the opportunities that we missed the first year.  My second year kids were narrowly defeated again by the great Brown County team, but we identified even more to improve on.  At the end of each year I have told my kids that next year’s team would be better because their teacher would be better.
  17. Mike Potts and his Brown County teams.  My kids knew they could not take a day Fassold and Potts - July 2016off.  They knew that Brown County would be working hard every single day to be better.  Brown County is the Lebron James of Indiana We the People competition (I am a Celtics fan and Lebron kills my Celtics).  Brown County’s success and professionalism inspires my teams.  They have shown my kids how to win and lose with grace.  We have tried to emulate their standard.  I know the Mike will be working twice as hard to prepare this year and we look forward to the challenge.

I don’t know to start this part of my blog.  How do I write about my 31 “Angels”, “Hoodlums”, “Future Presidents”, and “Babies”.  Their journey has been so long; preparing for competition for 9 months.  We have had a countdown calendar for competition for 160 school days.  They never wavered.  They are so resolute.Invictus

From the very beginning we recited Invictus; of course, like most things in my class there was a dual purpose.  One it allowed me to work on their presentation skills.  I also hoped they would begin to understand the importance.  Describing We the People competition to students in the beginning of the year is impossible; my default is to say, “You don’t know until you know”.  There was a moment at State when I forgot my copy of the poem; they recited it from memory.  The moment froze in my mind; a few cited the words from memory, but for most they meant the words they recited.  The knew “the fell clutch of circumstance” was competition; they knew better than to “wince or cry aloud” about what they could not control; they never “bow” their head in submission; they were found “unafraid”; truly they were the masters of their fates and the captains of their souls.

quote-Washington-Irving-there-is-a-sacredness-in-tears-they-92537I have shed many tears over my kids.  They are tears of joy; there is a touch of loss; they are tears of love.  Watching them at State started the waterworks; there were moments when their responses echoed the big ideas from class.  All the work was justified; they had learned; they understood; they had become a “great and powerful thing”.

Watching them grow second semester into what they were at Nationals is the most satisfying moment of my working life.  They rained knowledge down on to the judges; it was the culmination of months of hard work.  The judges were stunned and more than a few times the judges would catch my eye and smile which would cause my eyes to moisten.

In between rounds at State I read to them a chapter from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet Gibranabout work.  Most teared, some cried, some parents cried; of course, I had to fight the good fight to get through.  It was not just the power of the words; it was the power of the application of the words through my band of thirty one.  They transcended education for grades; they desired knowledge, they desired to understand, they desired to work with love; they truly are love made visible….for me.

My kids are not perfect.  They are still 13 and 14 years of age.  But there is a moment when they WERE perfect.  There is a moment of pure joy; of pure bliss; when everything was right in their world; when everything was laid bare; when they could drink deep from the life’s marrow.  Some one captured the moment.  Take a second and look at their faces.  They are, for a moment, immortal.

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This is the picture that gives me the greatest satisfaction.  Their joy fills my heart.  These kids fill my heart.

In a couple days we say goodbye.  My chest tightens when I think about it.  It is not IMG_20170430_173716_839unusual for me to struggle at the end of the year.  Saying goodbye is like that for me; it is never the same after my students leave…daily contact dwindles to visits and unexpected moments.  It is why I teach right up to the last day; normalcy is my coping mechanism.

I know the greatness that lies with these kids; it will be fun to watch them grow and contribute to the world’s narrative.  To everyone that helped my kids on their journey; thank you.  To my kids; not everyone that I consider family shares my blood…you are family.

Thank you to our sponsors!

Honorary Weople

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Founders

  • FJHS Chargers Staff & Students
  • Barry Lux
  • Tom Modglin
  • Jensen/Brewer, LLC
  • Mark Fassold

Patriots

  • Barnes & Noble, Carmel
  • SCI Student Council
  • Jaggers Burgers & Salads
  • Anonymous Donor
  • Fishers High School PTO
  • Carolyn Homer

Cabinet Members

  • Hoosier Road Elementary
  • Cumberland Road Elementary PTO
  • Meme & Papa Casey
  • Anonymous
  • Chick-fil-A, Noblesville at HTC
  • Katie Theobald
  • Janet Chandler
  • Doug Self
  • Diane Cassidy Realtor/Broker/Stager F.C. Tucker Co

Delegates

  • Sand Creek Intermediate PTO
  • Bill and Cathy Wainscott
  • Dan Zettel
  • Raymond Cox
  • Ladies Euchre Group
  • Tom, Kathy, Hope, and Matthew VanOsdol
  • Muhammad Munir and Amira Ali
  • Delta Faucet Company
  • Andrew & Tabbatha Collier
  • Brad Prugar
  • Nanci Quellhorst
  • The Pampered Chef
  • Mike Fassold
  • Carolyn Homer
  • Sand Creek Intermediate PTO
  • Dyson & Gurin Families
  • Stephan Rawnsley
  • Nicole (Keenan) Wiltshire
  • Steve Tegarden
  • Scott Whelchel
  • Jeanette Brewer
  • Todd Zimmerman
  • Nick MacFarlane
  • Barbara Waugh
  • Emily Bailey
  • Sherry Chamberland
  • Mike Mechanics
  • Cheri & Bob Higginbotham
  • Michelle Van Tassel
  • Emily Meyer
  • Teitgen Family
  • Angela Kumar
  • Bethann Wilkie
  • Ellery Hunter
  • Jennie Kilgore
  • Rachel Smith
  • Peter Girbert
  • Alex Orlowski
  • Valerie Ax
  • James & Marla Kelley
  • Tabitha Brown
  • Jill Jansen
  • Van Valer Family
  • Chuck, Margaret, and Emma Gillespie
  • Donna Reed
  • Mark McKeever
  • Brad DeReamer
  • Natalie Wood
  • Tiernan Kane
  • Anonymous
  • Douglas Church
  • Annette Probst
  • Kim Beaulieu
  • Scott Sanders
  • The Harder Family
  • Carol Piggush
  • Elizabeth Morse
  • Kim & Mike Broughton
  • Kristy Kokoska
  • Sue Cordell
  • John Delucia
  • Julia Mathews

Special thanks to all our sponsors. The 2017 FJHS We the People team is grateful to have so much support from our friends, family, and community. Thank you!

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My Weoples are State Champions!

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state-photo-formalIt is been one week and the shine has still not faded.  I knew that this blog post was coming, but there was some avoidance because of the emotions associated with the win, the memories that led to moment and, of course, the reality of preparing a team to compete in Washington DC.

My kids compete in a state where there is a major obstacle to any hope of winning; that obstacle is the dominant Brown County team led by Mike Potts, an award winning educator.  Brown County won the first six Indiana State championships, is  two-time National We the People champion and a two-time National We the People runner-up.  His kids are poised, prepared and have been the gold standard for my team over the last three years.  We have tried to emulate their poise and have approached each day knowing that we needed to put in the extra work because we knew that Brown County was using every minute to get better.  There is no bitterness towards them; my team admires them and looks at them with great respect.

Thstate-crown-plaza-stagee day was a blur at many levels.  The Indiana Bar Foundation puts on a first class event; my kids were impressed with the venue and attention to details.  We are lucky to compete in Indiana where the State provides funding for the program.  The entire Foundation has been so helpful to our program.

Here is a brief rundown for those who do not know what my kids do in competition.  My team is made up of 6 units with each unit specializing in a different part of our government; for example, Unit 1 deals with the philosophical roots (think Aristotle, Plato, John Locke) of our government, while Unit 5 covers the 1st Amendment and Due Process.  Each unit is given three different prompts that they need to research, form ideas about, and write a 4-minute response.  At competition the panel of judges will call for one of the prompts.  After the 4-minute prepared response the magic happens.  For 8-minutes judges ask my kids questions about the paper.  This is the part of We the People that makes the hard work worth while.  There were a couple moments at State when tears formed in my eyes while my kids were answering questions.

  • Morgan from my Unit 3 ended their discussion on the Electoral College by respectfully disagreeing with her teammates by talking about the historical roots that no longer existed that led to its creation.  It culminated a discussion that feature Federalist 68, the 3/5ths clause, public education, regionalism, social media, and statistics on what each electoral vote represented by state.  The person keeping time noticed my tears and gave me the knowing smile.  She understood that her teammates, my students, understood.  They understood what being educated truly means.
  • There was also a moment in the second round of Unit 6 when the judge could not stop raving about my kids.  He noted their poise, knowledge, and conviction.  One of the things he said stood out in my mind, “some people hold on strongly to their ignorance.”.  Tears, lots of tears.

 

There was a moment when I knew everything circling-at-statefrom the year mattered.  It exceeded winning.  It transcended the entire process.  First off we work from the very beginning of the year to “circle”.  Does not seem like a tough assignment for my Weoples, but it causes problems.  It takes until the 10th time before we “master” it…it makes me laugh.  By tradition we read the poem Invictus.  I love the poem. It speaks about the power of the individual to overcome impossible tasks and odds.   I start out the year by having four students read a stanza at the beginning of each class; my intent is to make the kids gain comfort in public speaking.  There is a little of a hidden agenda for them to realize who controls their success.  I asked just before we started our first round who wanted to read; Izzy proclaimed that they all had it memorized and they started to recite it from memory.  As I looked around the circle their eyes were filled with tears; so were mine.  They understood.  Gracey noted the moment in her “post-State” reflection:Invictus

Fassold has coined the concept of “circling”, in which all of us gather in a circle to receive a pep talk and encouragement from him before and after we compete. In these times, we recite our class poem, “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. My absolute favorite moment that I can relive completely, is closing my eyes to hear everyone’s voice ringing mightily in circle formation, reciting the powerful lines, stanza after stanza. In this moment, we had the determination of a fairytale, and we were ready to slay whatever dragon was to come our way.

My kids had their own perspectives on the class.  I want people to understand the impact of the class on them.

 “What is your favorite memory?” There are so many memories that it’s hard to pick a favorite, but a favorite would just be the entire day of state. State like I said was a roller coaster of emotions but looking back it was one of the best days of my life and seeing all of our work pay off. I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything. – Addi

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” As a member of unit 6, I was up to the task about learning about civic activity and its value to our government as an everyday citizen.  Using this makes me feel pride for my country and realize that as the next generation it is my job to be knowledgeable and involved in society.  Now, I find true motivation to serve others and play my role in society, whatever that is and becomes later in life.  – Braden

Do you have a funny memory about class?  I have a somewhat funny memory about class though it is kind of nerdy.  When one member of our team was speaking about hate speech, he brought up a case called Whitney vs. California though instead of saying this he said Whitney vs. Houston.  – Braden

 “What is your favorite memory?” My favorite memory would have to be right after we went our first time in state and I looked over and Fassold was crying. It was at that moment I knew we had made it, we had done what we came here to do, we had learned. Sitting there listening to the judge’s great feedback as Fassold looked at us with such pride brought tears to my eyes. At that moment we were more than a team, we were family. – Cassidy

 “What is the best thing about We the People?”  I think the best part about We the People would have to be that every student has a strength or gift and it allows the students whose talent is that they feel passionately about government to be able to activate that in a team competition. A lot of students our age take interest in sports or music and not a lot of 13 year olds like to speak about government, so it allows these students to express their thoughts publicly. Also, it lets these all different kinds of kids come together and find a common interest and talk about it as if we were adults.  – Faith

 “Describe what State competition was for you.” This is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but one of the best days of my life. It started so nerve racking and as we kept competing I had a feeling that this was our competition. Every time another unit performed we kept getting better and better. Then, awards came and everyone was so scared. There was tears, shivering hands, and uncontrollably moving legs. We were confident, but not too much just because we didn’t want to get our hopes up. Once they didn’t call us for second we all were beaming with joy. We all gave each other a look that said “We made it this far with each other and it all paid off right in this moment”. They then called our name for first and everyone was in happy tears. It’s like having an incredibly nerdy family and I wouldn’t want to take on nationals with anyone else. – Faith

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” Work is love made visible. We each have worked so hard to get to this point and it shows because not anyone of us doesn’t take WTP seriously. We have sacrificed long nights and lots of time to get to where we are and it has most definitely paid off. We also do it for each other, we all know we want it so bad that we continually made sure everything was perfection. -Faith

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to have an opinion and be proud of it. I’ve also learned the importance of having different opinions. Our government and society only change with differing opinions and you can value a person without valuing their opinion. Being on this team and working with this amazing teacher has changed my life for the better. I am so proud of the connections we have made and the knowledge we have gained in four months. I’m incredibly excited to learn so much more. – Grace

“What is the best thing about We the People?”   When I leave my fourth period class every day to attend fifth period We the People, there’s a sense of urgency getting to Mr. Fassold’s classroom, no matter how close it is. Upon entering, you can feel the essence in the room; we’re doing something unusual, something special. We are not colleagues, not classmates, not even friends- we are a family now. We have bonded in our units and as a whole community. The best thing is that it’s not even about the court cases or the philosophy, it’s the love for each other and our history. – Gracey

 “Describe what State competition was for you.”    Mr. Fassold always says that you can never understand what competition is like until you’ve actually competed. This idea was apparent at our state competition, even though we’d already attended regionals. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and absolute terror. I personally felt unprepared and nervous, but as soon as our units competed, I understood that it’s what we’d been preparing for. We were as prepared as we could be.  – Gracey

“In your own words describe We the People.” To me, We the People is a madhouse! Our class studies the Constitution, Magna Carta, philosophers, court cases, and current events in relation to each separate unit. Each unit writes a paper about a certain series of questions, and then debates in follow-up relating to your unit and other applicable questions. On an emotional level, your unit shares many late time stamps and arguments about the Electoral College. We share more than just a teammate bond, but instead the feeling of joy when you enter into follow-up and the smiles that flood our faces when someone mentions the Federalist Papers or voter turnout. We the People to me is a family away from my own family. It’s a class where we learn more than our brains are capable of, and a class where we shed many tears of happiness. I love We the People – it’s a class like no other, and I’ve been so blessed to share my journey throughout our history with my thirty other future presidents. – Izzy

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?”  I have learned how to debate rationally, how to research, how to quote, how to work with other people, and most importantly, how the Constitution works. I’ve learned how much the government means to me and the country as a whole. I’ve also learned that, in the far future, I’d like to start my own program like We the People because this class has meant so much to me. – Izzy A.

“What have learned that has impacted you personally?” The traits that I learned most due to this we the people experience is that I heavily developed by speaking skills and I have learned to speak my opinion more. Before we the people I was much more quiet and didn’t really like to tell anyone my opinions because I didn’t think they would make a difference. Now I know the value of my opinion and I want to share it to others. – Jonah V.

 “What is the best thing about We the People?”  The best thing about We the People is the knowledge you gain from the curriculum. Before class had started, I knew nothing in regards to our country, especially with its foundations. However, when you dive head first into these subjects, you gain a will to know more. This knowledge is something I wish everyone could receive. That way, we can all move along this virtuous path. Also, We the People is great for the memories you create. I can go on forever about all the people I’ve agreed and disagreed with. Your teammates will become your best friends. The memories you will share are priceless. – Joe C.

 “Describe what State competition was for you.” State competition pretty much took over our lives. I am always ready to accept a challenge, and state was definitely a challenge. Our main goal of state was to beat the Brown County We the People team. Before this year they had never lost a state competition and had been national champions or runner ups for the past several years. I worked really hard all year and I am so happy to get to go and compete in Washington D.C. The competition was so much fun and a memory I am sure I will never forget. State Competition meant so much to me. It represented all of the hard work that we as a class had put in over the school year.  -Kara

 “In your own words describe We the People.” We the People is a government class that prepares you for competition. We the People isn’t about winning, it’s about becoming the best educated generation in the United States. We gain civic knowledge and passions throughout the process of learning our country’s history. We are a family of future presidents, senators, representatives, attorneys, judges, lawyers, and most importantly educated citizens. – Liberty

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” Something I have learned that has impacted me is that iron sharpens iron. Being a competitive person I know that nothing fuels you other than a grudge against someone else. Working hard against someone else working hard is the ultimate preparation for this competition. Hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. – Liberty

“Describe what State competition was for you.” State competition was really and awesome reflection of all of the work we had put in. As Fassold says, “work is love made visible”. We as a class have put in hours after hours of work for state and winning was just such an honorable moment. When we didn’t get called for any wards and they went to announce first, we all just started crying because it hit us that we had done it. In a word, it was amazing. -Makenna A.

 “In your own words describe We the People.” To me, We the People is more than just an advanced civics education class. We the People is a class where we learn to apply our knowledge to unknown questions and learn how to communicate with others. We the People, and I can speak for all of us, helps us understand past events and how they apply to the currents issues that apply. In addition, we all become better civically educated and can help educate others who are not as knowledgeable as us. In conclusion, We the People helps us become better citizens of our country and learn to respect others and their opinions. -Maya F.

“What is your favorite memory?” My favorite memories are when Mr. Fassold read from The Prophet at regionals and state. The sections he’s read from are so relevant to today and have such a deep meaning. One of my favorite lines from the book is “Work is love made visible.” Another memory is when the whole class reads invictus together. We all are the one thing that we can control in life and as it says in the poem, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” -Maya F.

 “What have learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to analyze any article, and pull the bias out to get down to the ‘facts’ or what we need to pull out of the article. I can filter through my media accounts and see the truth. This comes in handy, especially when election are in full swing, and the false news trend is spreading and becoming a bigger issue.  Another thing I have learned is Work is Love made Visible, and that I am the Master of my Fate, and the Captain of my Soul. -Meg G.

 “What have you learned that has impacted you personally?” I have learned how to create strong bonds with the people in my Unit. At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know basically anyone in my unit but now we are like a family. I have learned so much from them in just a few months and they have greatly impacted my life. Without We the People, I wouldn’t have been able to get this close with them at all. Stress can either bring people together or tear them apart but with my Unit, stress brought us by each other’s side and encouraged us to support each other. Especially when we had to go last at State!  -Morgan

“What is the best thing about We the People?” One of the best things about it is that it makes us better citizens and more intelligent future voters while also being a very enjoyable class. Not only do the people in We the People classes share great experiences and form bonds, but they also learn about our country’s history and about how the political landscape today can be analyzed. One of the speakers at the Indiana We the People State Competition talked about how the recent 2016 election might have struck fear into the heart of many citizens, but if citizens knew the things that We the People classes teach they would know how to tackle the issues of today with confidence.  You don’t necessarily need talent to be great in this class and competition. Just come in, work as hard as you can, go beyond expectations, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  -Ray

My kids will tell you that my class is a lot of work.  They work hard; not for grades, but for understanding, the promise of competition, their teammates, and intrinsic motivation.  I am beyond proud of them.  They know that they are loved for I tell them that I love them.

We are now moving into a brand new phase for us; preparing for national competition.  I have been mulling over what we need to learn and the list seems daunting; there is so much history we need to uncover through our lens.  We are not a survey class of memorization and rote.  We attack history like an historian; deep studies, analysis, and introspection.  At the same time we must stay abreast of the modern world and consider all through our lens.

Lastly, I read to my kids before Regionals and State from my favorite book, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran, the chapter called “Work”.  There is a line in it that goes, “Work is love made visible. And if you can’t work with love, but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of the people who work with joy”   My kids work with joy and the work is love made visible.

This year’s team owes a great deal of thanks to my previous teams.  Last year’s team came so close as the State runners-up.  My first year team surprised so many people with their second place finish.  We learned so much together.  Of course the FHS We the People team served as the inspiration to starting a team at the junior high.

I have a treat for those of you that read the previous 3414 words.  Below is my Unit 6 competing in the second round of State.  The video contains the testimony, the follow-up questions, and the judges feedback.  You will see how knowledgeable and poised my 13 and 14 year olds really are.  Enjoy.

Get involved:

Community members throughout Hamilton County and Indiana at large are invited to join the FJHS We the People journey to the Fifth Annual We the People National Invitational by following the team on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @FJHSWeThePeople.

Community sponsorship and donations to offset the cost of traveling and competing at the National competition are greatly appreciated. Visit www.gofundme.com/fjhswethepeople to donate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most powerful moment for me during the Republican and Democratic Conventions.

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I teach an 8th history class that competes in the We the People’s constitutional and civics program.  It is an understatement that this election season (which is now years long) is interesting.  I am nearly at my capacity after dedicating 8 days and nights to watching the conventions, following the comments of pundits and social media trolls.  Each convention held moments for me that stay with me.  There were moments throughout the conventions that caused me pause; but there was only one moment that made me openly weep.

In an election season of “if you are not with me, you are the enemy” and where the  voices of compromise and moderation are only canyon echoes.  It was the speech given by Khizr Khan on the last night of the Democratic Convention that moved me as a father, a veteran, a student of history and political science.

History has been unkind to “easily recognizable minorities”; the Jews in Nazi Germany, the Rohingya minority in Burma, the Ainu in Japan, African-Americans in our own country.  Our country has failed to live up to its own ideals of equal protection under the law in the infamous cases of Dred Scott, Minersville School District v Gobitis, Korematsu v the United States, Buck v Bell and Plessy v Ferguson.  In each case the easily identifiable minority was unprotected by the very government that bore the responsibility to protect those most vulnerable from the tyranny spawned from fear and self-interest.

Mr. and Mrs. Khan are gold star parents and are true Americans; their son Humayun cemented their place and his own place as an American patriot when he paid a soldier’s ultimate price.  His remains are forever interred in the hallowed ground of Arlington.

I was privileged to take the Fishers High School We the People team to Nationals in 2013.  As part of that trip we walked through the grounds of Arlington National Cemetary.  I pointed out brief lives of patriots and heroes as we walked through the curved paths.  I choked up at the graves of personal heroes and lives with short spans between their dates of birth and death, and shed silent tears at the site of John F Kennedy’s flame for my mom who cried so hard at his death.  I placed coins on the stones of some (it is the Irish in me).  I stood rigid at the changing of the guard and marvelled at the World War II veterans who left wheel chairs to render hand salutes.  On my next trip to Arlington I will find Humayan Khan’s grave and I will place a coin in his honor.  The symbol of Islam on his tombstone will join the religious symbols of so many that define America.

Those of you that know me understand that I am a political enigma.  I have no party identification and split ticket vote every time.  I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and have used a pencil in my votes for president.  When I took the I Side With quiz, isidewith.com, in the primary season the two candidates that I had the most in common with were Rand Paul at 72% and Bernie Sanders at 71%.  Go figure.   I am secretive with vote…I don’t tell my politics and don’t share my voting record.

I believe in the ideals that made America the marvel of the world.  The concepts of liberty, equal protection, and rule of law matter.  Khizr Khan reminded me of these ideals and that America should live up to the observation of Alexis de Tocqueville so many years ago when he wrote, “America is great, because Americans are good.”

A Tiny Look Back at Year 19 and a Look Forward to Year 20

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My 19th teaching year has passed into the past.  In my mind it is 20 years because of the joy and impact that my student teaching year kids had on my life [still think of you as kids who are now 32 and 33!!].   First off, it was truly a great year.  My 7th grade kids bought in [measured by the number who still gave me maximum effort during the last 10 days of school]  and my 8th grade class was truly special [suffered from emotional dehydration for a week after school].  Teaching 196 students was filled with late nights and many 2-day prep periods called Saturday and Sunday, but it was worth it.

My 8th grade class was a source of particular joy.  They were a great group; talented, personable, competitive, and special.  They will be hard to replace.We the People Team Photo at State - Dec 2015

On a personal level the year energized me.  Teaching students that are willing [well mostly willing], with people that inspire me, and for someone so supportive of real learning has inspired me to keep growing as a teacher.

Probably the only real negative was the loss of families from redistricting.  It was difficult to see some of these foundational families leave our building.  Listening to them lament that their younger children would not come through our school was heart wrenching for me as I tried to keep the neighborhoods as a member of the redistricting committee.  I have been through it three times before so I expected the feeling of loss.

That is my look back.  Anything more violates my principle of:

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ON TO NEXT YEAR!!!

Sketch noting and Learning Walls.  Two years ago I read an article about effective and lasting note taking strategies.  Every teacher complains about the lack of note taking skills and every student complains about note taking.  Last year Fassold SketchnoteI introduced sketch noting to my students.  Pinterest was a lot of help and I found a great YouTube channel called Verbal to Visual [I cannot recommend this channel enough].  My kids took to the format.  In fact it made up the bulk of my three-part final exam.  The skill requires constant engagement from the note-taker.   To the right is my quick sketch note about my opening 7th grade units for next year:

Gracey Scholl Learning Wall

On the left is a learning wall (more a graphic representation of learning).  I use these as a metacognition summative activity versus a real time activity.  The assignment was an academic honors culmination project.  I use learning walls in my interactive notebooks for religions and philosophies.  Each lend themselves to the format.

I will be teaching 7 periods a day next year.  To be honest this scares me to death.  It is not the actual teaching that scares me.  It is more the loss of my prep period.  I CONSTANTLY tinker on my lessons…every day.  Some of you know that I get to work around 6 am; without first period prep I can see that arrival time creeping toward 5 am to allow sufficient tinker time.  My principal gave me 5th period for my We the People class–the additional time is critical and the prospect of having “working lunches” with units is exciting.

Camp Tecumseh. Our program is building and expanding.  Thanks to our newest co-director, Deb Kletch [aka Science Queen], we are moving forward with a centralized science theme that will include real-time reporting of data tracking erosion and invasion of foreign plants.  The new Camp Tecumseh program director is also a science teacher so that help as Camp is as interested in expanding the science in our program as we are in taking advantage of the 600+ acres.

The Mapping Project is Coming Back!! I have missed this cornerstone of my class.  When I moved classes the project went away due to a lack of room.  I spent the summer adapting the project for the outdoors…spray paint, 2 gallon kitty litter containers, and pvc pipe.  I am looking forward to watching my kids struggle, succeed, and become frustrated when I do the whole project in 12 minutes.

John Hattie’s Visible Learning. I cannot recommend this book enough.  Below are the factors that his consolidated research has proven to make a difference in the teaching of studejohn-hattie-effect-sizes-on-achievement-22-728nts.  I am stuck by how much of what matters in teaching is not always valued in practice.  I understand why those that profit through testing would discount what actually matters.

Teachers need to also take a hard look at their practices.  The things on the list that jump out at me are “Teacher-student relationships”, “Feedback” and “Providing formative evaluation to teachers”.

Hattie’s exhaustive research also sparked my interest in what was deemed “Not Worth It Yeinfluences-on-achievement-john-hattie-13-638t” and “Disasters”. It would be an interesting discussion with our lawmakers and their “education reformer” masters the research behind their support for “Religious Schools” and “Charter Schools”.

 

 

The Reality of Fishers Junior High.

Burden Quote

Improve my students’ ability to reason.  Metacognition and proving understanding has  been the right and left eye of my class (some of my former students might recognize the line).   It comes from my days as a systems analyst and belief that teaching must be transferrable outside of the school environment.  Problem solving and understanding are critical skills that need to be developed and nurtured.  Writing has to become more intentional in my class.

My focus will be to deepen the natural writings that fit into my class:

  1. Deciphering text; with an emphasis on identifying main points and supporting information.
  2. Making an argument; with an emphasis on supporting a position and considering the opposite position.
  3. Synthesizing multiple texts; with an emphasis on linking arguments between texts.

I had already curated 180 bell work sources for the upcoming year (please don’t judge me–every one has addictions).  I want to use the bell works as formative activities. I love educational books that I can immediately make improvements in my class.  For me it was Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison.  The practical activities that uncover thinking and push understanding will find a way into my class and into their interactive notebooks.

Fassold and Potts - July 2016

Fassold and Potts at IU at the We the People Institute

We the People.  This is our school’s third year with a team.  Each year we finished second to Mike Potts’ great Brown County team.  I learned a lot our first year and we got better last year; unfortunately, so did Mike’s team.  This year we will be even better.  I have studied a lot this summer to improve my knowledge base.   This is especially true for my Unit 5’s case law.  The We the People Institute in Bloomington was such a great experience again.  I heard two great speakers; Dr. David H. Adler and Dr. Thomas Mackey.

 

Crystal Thorpe, my great principal, went to great lengths to give me more time and it will make a difference.

For the first time I have a clear plan on what we need to do.  I am excited for next year’s kids.  They are already working.  Our goal is to win State.

I decluttered my classroom and made a lot of additions.  My classroom is cleaner, more organized, less junky this year.  Barrel after barrel of junk and paper was trashed or recycled.  I am more ready for the year than ever before.

Classroom Panoramic View

Panoramic View of my Classroom

 

 

 

 

Classroom Ceiling Tiles

G101 Gallery

Tony Sturgeon.  It is our 20 year anniversary this year.  We started our teaching careers together and have worked hard to make each other better.  I value his opinion.  I count each year from this point a gift.

Staff - Tecumseh 2009 - Sturgeon Napping with Crown

Staff Departures.  Our building does not turn over very often.  Sometimes redistricting has cost us people we did not want to loss, family relocations take some, retirements cause changes in our staff.  Our building is losing someone to a well deserved promotion; Donna Schiele is moving on to become an administrator at the Tindley Academy.  I normally would leave my emails private, but Donna deserves better.  For my students you will recognize the chapter from my favorite book.  If were lucky enough to know Mrs. Schiele (pronounced She-Lee) you will understand my respect and adoration.  Below is what I sent her.

Donna, 

I expected it, but that does not mean that I like it.  You represent what is right in education.  In my favorite book, The Prophet; Khalil Gibran writes this about work:

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons,
and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

 ….

 Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

 You have worked with love.  You enriched our building and our kids.  Your loss will be felt,  You are one of finest educators that I have known in both my careers.  I wish you every success and joy.  Give my love to your family.

I am grateful for our paths crossing.

With respect,

Mike

My Golden Birthday?  I was born in 1958 and will turn 58 this year.  It seems that this should be something special; lottery win, good luck, 58 straight days of gifts, something. As one of two oldest teachers in my school the conversation about when I am going to retire comes up a lot.  My answer?  I don’t know.  My energy level is still good and my love of teaching has not waned.  There is a part of me that would like to teach for seven more years.  I am pretty sure that I will teach for 2 more as Ally will graduate from college by then with Caitlin graduating a year and a half earlier.  Regardless, each day in the classroom is a gift; every day teaching at Fishers Junior High is a gift; every day working for Crystal and Tige is a gift; so who am I to be ungrateful for such wonderful gifts.

Have a great school year. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does a Grade in My Class Mean?

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My mind has been vexed by this simple question.  Specifically, what does the report card grade tell the my students and the parents?  Does it reflect what my students know?  Their faithfulness?  Their understanding?  Their tenacity?  Or is it, as I have come to view it, the fulfillment of the social contract between my students, their families, and myself?  The social contract should be that if students show understanding and push themselves, they will earn a grade that reflects the fulfilment of the implied contract.  Conversely, a hard-working student that pushes himself, but does not understand the essential learning of my class, cannot earn a grade that gives the appearance that he can transfer these skills into future classes and the working world.  Just as much, a student that shows understanding, but lacks the drive and work ethic expected of productive individuals, also cannot receive a grade that gives the impression that he is ready for the demands of the workplace. This is the frame of my reflective writing.  It is something that has evolved a lot over my teaching career.  After nearly a score of teaching years some clarity has become to emerge.

Of course, it would be a simple thing to say that my grading is a zero-tolerance endeavor.  The reality is that I want all my students to get an “A” in my class.  Every teacher will say this, but the challenge is what extra efforts do we teachers make to ensure that goal becomes reality.

First off, my grading thoughts needed a mission statement.  If you know me this seemingly easy thing causes me hours of grief.  The reason that it is so difficult lies in clarifying what the letter grade should tell parents and students.  Below is my attempt:

A grade in a class reflects the student’s understanding of the essential questions along with his or her faithfulness and work ethic.  The grade can also reflect the understanding of the cultural literacy associated with the class. Version 1.4

I am sure that this mission statement will change as this article extends, but it is a start.  The next challenge was for me to be honest in my belief statements. (I hate belief statements.  As they peel away the façade that I like to erect in front of me.  One of the reasons that I don’t want to publish my book is that it is too personal.  Also it invites criticism.  I don’t mind criticism for the most part.  But my teaching beliefs are personal; it is the equivalent of people criticizing my musical tastes.  I can’t control what I like in music.  I wrestle a lot with these type of things because I try to do them justice.)  So here goes.

Belief Statements (in no particular order):

  1. All multiple-choice tests are formative. I ducked when I wrote this bullet.  I have heard since I started teaching that a “well-crafted” multiple-choice test can uncover deeper and transferable thinking.  You may be able to nuanced connections, but uncover the transferable thinking that we want our students to do in the “real world”?  I don’t think so.  The format is artificial and the assessment foreshadowed.  I just don’t agree with the basic assertion.  This is not condemning multiple-choice test per se; it is just challenging the idea that a multiple-choice test is a long-term, transferable skill measurement.
  2. Students should prove they can perform a task or demonstrate a skill to prove understanding.  This cannot be emphasized enough.  When done correctly the summative assessment can drive a more focused instruction.  Instead of throwing tons of information against the wall to see what sticks it allows for a more intentional instruction.  Every summative assessment should contain a lifelong and transferable skill.
  3. Teachers MUST address the deficits revealed in formative assessments.  Otherwise, there is no reason to check for understanding if you do not react when they fail to demonstrate that they learned what you wanted them to learn. I have been guilty, but this is something that has been a point of improvement for me the last couple years.  Go over the answers and look for trends in wrong answers.  Restructure the information, change the vehicle, and check understanding again.  If it is important enough to ask; it is important enough to make sure they understand. It is criminal to not use formative assessments.
  4. Students should receive new learning three times as a minimum. My class is cumulative.  The key lessons are reviewed and refreshed all year.  My end-of-year test contains formative checks on the cultural literacy of my class.  I use Quizlet for reviews and give quick chunks of class time for my kids to review.  I also play games in Socrative for a little class competition.
  5. Summative assessments should return more than a letter grade.  Students need to know what worked, what did not, and what they can do to make the jump to the next level.  Last on I will share the rubric that I use with summative assessments that emphasizes this belief.
  6. Students should be given the opportunity to redo assignments until they have demonstrated understanding. This seems like a no-brainer and is actually a proof to my very object-ducking assertion that all multiple-choice tests are formative assessments.  As Scantron machines scream terrible scores on multiple-choice scores the dread from teachers and students is the elephant in the room.  The finality of multiple-choice tests drives grades, relationships, and parent-child relationships.  It is a natural transition for students to redo assignments when summative assessments become more genuine.  I hate Buzzword-Bingo, but if the emphasis is to develop the growth mindset in students, it seems logical that students should not only be allowed to redo an assignment; they should be positively encouraged to reach higher. On a related thought; allowing students to redo assignments ends the end of the grading period rush for extra credit as they can just redo a poor assignment.  In addition, it directly puts a student’s grade in the student’s realm of control.  That was one of the unexpected benefits of the change in my assessment worldview.  It was never about “my grading”; it is always about the student choosing to redo a poor assignment to show understanding.
  7. Going along with the previous belief, teachers need to model summative assessments that are projects.  The struggle is real.  There is no better bonding in my class than shared struggles over some of my projects.  It is also important for me to have a realistic idea how much time assignments take.  I normally assume my students need three times the time I need to complete an assignment.  This completely unscientific ratio has served me well over the years.  I also like to post my progress on the front board to serve as benchmarks for my students.
  8. Summative assessment should always link to the essential learning of the class. Okay, one of my favorite projects is my Tang Dynasty Poetry project where I try to get my students to honor the poetry of Du Fu and Li Bo by blending Tang Dynasty art, poetry and Chinese calligraphy.  Now Bill Gates and David Coleman may complain that I am not making my students “college and career ready”, but I disagree.  My students fear risk…like most people.  I want them to embrace the risk…paint, poetry, and struggle.  The perfect summative assignment as its lessons are lasting.
  9. Long tests do not reveal more than short tests.  One of the complaints that I hear from junior high teachers that teach high school courses is that they need extra time to finish tests.  They seek extra time for the test instead of looking at the instrument itself. More is not always better.  Do 50 questions reveal more than 20 questions?  If you subscribe to the idea that multiple-choice question tests are formative assessments, then the test is not about long-term understanding.
  10. Assessments should always be unannounced.  If they have to cram for the test, they don’t know the information.  My only exception to this rule is my cultural literacy (people, place, vocabulary) quizzes that I give on Fridays.  My teaching partner and trusted editor suggested that I explain the exception; therefore, I will.  There is a need for cultural literacy in our population.  Ignorance of the world around us is well documented and sometimes comical (see any of the “Man on the Street” features on YouTube).  There are things that literate citizens can recognize; people, places, landmarks, etc.  This is just a pet of mine.  This is not going to change the world.  I just want my students to not be ignorant.
  11. Summative assessments don’t need to be unnecessarily hard; but they should be challenging. Summative assessments don’t need to result in a bell curve of understanding.  Success must be achievable.  The key is to provide room for students to push higher through choice and open-endedness.

12.Summative assessments should never receive a “B” or “D”.  Both are mercy-grades that are murky messages to students.  Rubrics can add to this problem if it is possible to achieve a “B” grade and not prove understanding, or achieve a “D” without completing the assignment. My problem with a grade of a “B” really comes down to Pizza Hut’s honor roll pizza.   Over the years a “B” on a summative assessment took on one of two characteristics.  Either the work showed effort, the student followed instructions; BUT, they did not showed understanding; or there was some level of understanding, but the work did not follow the basic instructions.   Either condition is not honor roll worthy.  In addition, it is a failure on one side or the other.  “D” grades have been and always will be a mercy-grade; designed to move a failing child along.

How is My Class Grade Weighted?

Grades are weighted in my class.  I like to grade all assignments to insure investment; however, I realize that not everything in my class is of equal importance.  A grade in my class breaks down thusly:

  1. Summative Assessments: 75%.  This category is exclusively made up of unit projects, DBQ assessments, major analysis projects, and performance assessments.
  2. Formative Assessments: 20%.
    1. All formative quizzes.
    2. Class work.
    3. Interactive notebook metacognition assignments.
  3. Cultural Literacy Checks: 5%.  Again I think it is important for my students to recognize famous landmarks, places, people, and transferrable vocabulary.  I normally give a quick quiz every Friday.  Also, the key pieces of learning from each unit are also included on the Quizlet review and the Friday quizzes.

Tang Dynasty - A, C and F Rubric with Feedback

 

Grading Summative Assessments

This is the biggest change in my grading practices.  Summative assessments can only earn a range of “A’s”, a “C”, or an “F”.  This took me years to resolve in my mind.  Clarity came that my focus had to be on understanding.  I have been a disciple of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in the design of my units and teaching mindset.  The grading component of my discipleship has never embraced Understanding Design.  To the left is a basic rubric that I use:

In short students can earn three different “A” grades.  Each deals with understanding first.  The difference in an “A- “and “A” is in execution, not understanding.  An “A+” is what is termed lion’s work in my class.  It is that work that stands out both in execution and understanding.

Historically, the hardest grading for me was the kid who worked hard on an assignment, but completely missed the point.  I found that I awarded these kids with a “B”.  This is problematic.  Giving a kid an “honor roll” grade for not understanding stuck in my teacher gut.  It’s duplicitous.

I want kids to redo work until it earns, at least, an “A”.  I want them to demonstrate understanding.

There is a personal cost to this type of grading.  Time.  I grade a lot.  Writing even the briefest notes sap the clock.  There are no short cuts to grading summative assessments.  Thanks to our one-to-one digital-program the time I spend on formative assessments has dropped considerably.  Socrative is worth its weight in gold.  Instant feedback with Excel reports.  Glorious.

However, the off-set is not a zero-sum game.  The time savings is a fraction compared to the summative grading.  I don’t have a magic pill to ease the grading of my summative assessments.  There are some things that have helped.  The tips don’t always apply to every assignment, but they can help.

 Summative Grading Time Savers!!

  1. Collect assignments later in the week so that you have your unofficial prep days (Saturday and Sunday.  I would have put Friday on the list, but I am normally pretty brain dead on Friday) to get started on the grading so the assignment don’t lay around all week getting dusty.
  2. Use a custom graded rubric that has comments that provide clear feedback. It really helps when you do the assignments with the kids to find out those things that are more valuable and difficult in execution.
  3. Try to grade on 10-point scales and then weight them.  It makes the math easier.
  4. Give your students pre-grading work on writing assignments.  Develop a system to highlight those things that you are looking to see.  This will cut down your grading.
  5. Highlight the thesis with a green highlighter
  6. Highlight support factual supports, phrases only in yellow highlighter.
  7. Highlight synthesis statements in blue highlighter.  You will need to teach and encourage your students to make synthesis statements.  The key in my discipline is to apply what they have learned.
  8. Stay focused in your summative assessment design.  I have learned with my work with We the People that more is not necessarily better.  A tight two-page paper (around 675 words) is better than a rambling, unfocused 10-page paper.
  9. Separate mechanics from understanding.  Don’t make margins, fonts, color, and size worth much.  In fact, you can have the kids grade each other on the mechanics of an assignment.  Keep your focus on determining if they understand.
  10. Some teachers might be able to stagger their classes so that they are not picking up a bunch of summative assessments at the same time.  I am not that teacher.

Do I Give Zeroes?

The short answer is “yes”.  The long answer is “yes”, but it takes a lot to keep the zero.  I pursue missing summative assessments.  It is just too devastating to a grade for a zero to appear in the grade book; especially, when you heavily weigh summative assessments.

Musing of a Teacher with a Sleep Debt

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This week was one of those weeks that make me roll my eyes when people say “teachers have their summers off”; 15 hour days, lots of tasks and demands, and some really early mornings.  Of course, I do this to myself and the things I do give me joy.   So I am not really whining; I just run down.

Our We the People Demonstration night last Thursday was terrific.  A couple hundred people showed up.  Big thanks to high school sponsors Liz Paternoster and Janet Chandler for supporting my junior high program; Todd Zimmerman and Cecilia Coble from the City of Fishers; Bob Leming–the National Director of We the People judged; my friends Larry Lannon of Larry in Fishers, Kevin Stumpf and Geoff Tease; plus so many We the People students.  It was a great night.

Ally gave me a task to help with a project for her US History class…a chance to rank the Presidents.  Her teacher wants her to rank the top 18 presidents.  This should be easy for most people, but I spent 4 hours making my list.  Below is my list:

  1. Lincoln                                       GREATS
  2. Washington
  3. Theodore Roosevelt               NEAR GREATS
  4. Dwight Eisenhower
  5. Harry Truman
  6. James Polk
  7. Thomas Jefferson                   HIGH AVERAGE
  8. James Madison
  9. FDR
  10. John Kennedy
  11. Grover Cleveland
  12. Lyndon Johnson
  13. James Monroe
  14. William Taft
  15. William McKinley
  16. Calvin Coolidge                      AVERAGE
  17. Chester Arthur
  18. James Garfield
  19. John Adams
  20. Andrew Jackson
  21. George H.W. Bush
  22. Bill Clinton

The two presidents that caused me the most thoughtful review were Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan.  Philosophically they each offered so much, but in the execution both created long term harm.  The part of the exercise was learning more about James Polk.  I am not a big fan of Andrew Jackson over his treatment of Native Americans and his near destruction of the American economy.  FDR falls lower than some rankings over the Japanese Internment and the Court Packing scheme.

This week is about the Tang Dynasty Poetry project.  One of my favorites.

 

Musings of a Caffeinated Teacher Home Alone

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First off the girls are all gone; just me and the brother-in-law at home.  I celebrate my man freedom just as most men dream…filled the water softener, rested my eyes for 2 hours, drove to Anderson to watch some of my students perform in Winter Guard, made food that makes the girls roll their eyes and comment about the smell and presence of veggies.  I am going to round out my bachelor-life with a sci-fi film fest of some “geeky” faire followed up with an historical film.  Before I embark on my night that explains my lack of popularity in high school; I thought I would muse…

  • Friday night we had our NJHS “super, fun night” for our new 7th grade students.  We had fun…I once again established myself as the greatest “river shark” ever.  My kids are so trusting; even after I tell them not to trust me.  Watching my 8th grade officers provide leadership and support warms my soul.  Also the high school kids that come back to help represent all that is good in America. Talking with them for an hour after the night ended makes everything work the time. Once again the 7th grade selected great officers to represent our chapter.  They stepped over popularity and elected true role models to carry the torch of this great chapter.
  • I am embarrassed to watch what is going on in the Republican race.  Petty insults and vulgarity are low-brow.  Is this the best our country can manage.  School have pushed the message of “no bullying” and yet the bullying comments are carried on national media and celebrated in some circles as “telling it like it is”.  It reminds me of line from the Machiavelli’s The Prince when he writes, “For the vulgar are always taken by appearances and by results, and the world is made up of the vulgar, the few only finding room when the many have no longer ground to stand on.”  George Washington would move to Canada if he knew this was his Presidential legacy.
  • ISTEP….
  • There would be some changes if I was ever elected dictator of the world.  I have pondered if we would save money if we gave all elected officials a $1,000,000 a year salary, but did not allow them to be lobbied, vote on bills that they received a financial benefit for passing, all campaign money was donated into a blind trust that distributed the money without strings.  Would this bring back “civic virtue”; would we have a modern Cincinnatus or Washington rise to office.
  • Why are schools not rated on longitudinal data versus short term tests?  Should school be measured on what they produce? Schools get points for students who go to college, trade school, military, Peace Corps, mission trips, or enter any job that allows them to avoid government assistance to eat.  Schools would lose points for high school drop outs and graduating unemployed students.  Of course, as elected dictator, all high school drop outs would immediately be brought to the military recruiter for ASVAB testing and service selection.  It seems that is a much cheaper and more meaningful measurement.  The money that the states use to subsidize testing companies and politicians could then be used to create organic farms in schools and entrepreneurial programs at schools to teach real skills and provide income to students that need it.
  • This week started the selection process for my We the People class for next year.  This is so tough.  Thanks to my brothers-from-other-mothers the list is down to 60 names. Whittling those names down to a class of 24 will be tough.
  • Tis the start of the season of tears…electing new officers means saying goodbye to old officers, hiring new Camp Tecumseh counselors means saying goodbye to a great class of senior counselors (this year’s senior class will be especially tough–there are a lot of them and they mean a lot to me), building a We the People class for next year means saying goodbye to this year’s class (they are so very special to me…we all know it is coming…small comments are made…but we just move on from the subject), the current 6th grade students coming by for Charger Connection night means that my 7th grade kids who have grown so much this year will be soon be gone.  I hate being a teacher; I love being a teacher.
  • I am blessed to teach with folks who care about kids.  To some students are numbers and rankings.  To my teaching-brothers they are souls with futures.
  • I was inspired watching the HSE JV Winter Guard perform to convert the blue steps in my room to a faux rocky outcropping so that I could enter into the room to the song “Circle of Life” from the Lion King and I could walk up the two steps (more than that would kill my knee) and the kids could all give a little bow.  We could sing the chorus “pink pajamas penguins on the bottom” all together.
  • My no more “B’s” and “D’s” program for holistic grading is taking off like wild-fire.  Well three people have talked to me about it.  I should start branding myself a consultant and make a lot of money.  Now if only my “deportment” grade on report cards would gather such a following.
  • I drink too much coffee…
  • Sketch-noting is the real deal.  My 8th grade students stun me with their work; my 7th grade students have mostly embraced the concept.  Next year’s first 9 weeks are becoming clear in my mind.  I plan on building my class around how to learn to be a historian (and student).  Emphasizing the skills of reading, analyzing, understandings, and arguing will pay dividends for the rest of the year.
  • I am making another cup of coffee…
  • When I am elected dictator of the world my classroom will have a Chromebook lab with wireless print capability.  All software will be loaded by me.  I would like to have one day where the kids who did not do his or her work did not walk into my class playing a game on his iPad.
  • Okay that is enough musing for this week.  Time to watching Serenity and Selma.
  • If a rich benefactor ever slips me enough money to open my own school it will be called Socrates School of Quality Query.  We will be called the S2Q2’s. Latin will be taught.  Books will be read.  Recess will be had.  Songs will be written.

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