MySpace. A place for friends. Where you can plot to kill them.

my_space_for_murder.jpg     Something is really rotten in South Jersey.

"A 15-year-old high school student was charged with harassment after she allegedly posted a 'hit list' on a Web site, authorities said."

We recently had a program for the parents of middle school students in our district, sponsored by our PTA, because it was becoming increasingly obvious that our kids are much more cyber-savvy than their parents.  Additionally, we have had a number of incidents – mostly involving girls – which centered on the use of computers and technology such as MySpace and Instant Messaging to harass, threaten, and generally make life miserable for targeted students.  The kids also use MySpace as a resource to troll for "friends," usually older teenagers (mostly males) looking for sex.

It is absolutely amazing what parents do not know, and what they do not  – and will not – do to stop this from happening.

Too many parents seem to think that their offspring have an unfettered and absolute right to privacy, even when their children are using cyberspace to advertise their personal wares and threaten violence against others.  Too many kids have computers and internet access in their bedrooms, so they can literally stay up all night (or more likely, stay online all afternoon after school, when parents aren't home) to do their dirty work.  Parents don't even know about MySpace, have no clue how to access or navigate it, and far more don't know their kids' screen names or passwords.  So the kids can do what they want, when they want, and Mommy and Daddy are totally and udderly clueless.  Or they choose to be that way, because it's easier.

Meanwhile, other kids are bullied mercilessly, others are at risk for being victimized by violence, and still others place themselves at the mercy of sexual predators.

I'm not some right-winger (obviously) calling for censorship of MySpace.  I am for protecting kids, mine and yours.  My teenagers don't have unlimited internet access.  The computer my 13 year old uses is in a common area, not in his room.  He has his own secure desktop, which does not allow him access to certain programs without permission.  We actually USE the "parental contol" settings on our firewall/anti-virus software.  MySpace is blocked. 

Instant Messager is NOT on our computer.  Period.  It serves no useful purpose.  Using it is a waste of a kid's time.

Parents, teachers, and school administrators all need to wake up to the reality of what kids are doing online.  They need to be educated, so that they can educate – and  protect – everybody's kids.

Anybody else see something wrong with this?

dukey.JPG     Read the story here.  Ummm, not to sound like too much of a poophead here, but, what the heck is wrong with the young people (sorry, but they're probably all males) at Duke University, who think that wearing one of these "because ______ (fill in your lame excuse)" is appropriate?  Or somehow funny?

Remembering Anthony.

anthony.jpg     Sappho, over at The Sappho Manifesto, one of the many progressive/radical blogs I read regularly, brought this story to my attention on Tuesday, after all of the big immigrants' rights rallies across the United States.  It made me really sad.

Now I see that "Members of a coalition of Southern California students say they'll dedicate Saturday's Mass Student March 2006 in downtown Los Angeles to 14-year-old Anthony Soltero."  Read the local news coverage here (video also).  The AP story is here.

I'll be thinking about Anthony on Saturday.  I'll be praying for his family on First Day (Sunday).  You might want to, too.

Memo to Mr. Horowitz: Your pants are on fire.

David_Horowitz.jpg     David Horowitz is a self-promoting gasbag of a tool of the hardcore Republican Right.  Got that?  He's also a liar.  And the nice people from Media Matters caught him in his latest act of dissembling (that word our Fearless Leader once had so much trouble with).

I love it when they do that.  And they do it so well.

NJ “high school massacre plot” update.

"Four teenage boys facing terrorism and conspiracy to murder charges in an alleged plot to massacre fellow students at Winslow Township High School will remain detained until at least May 4."

About the only other tidbit that has leaked out to our local media, at least in terms of information about the accused in this case, is that the boys have all been described as being "Goths."

Here we go again.

I guess someone was absent the day they discussed “Brown” in history class…

brown_stamp.jpg     How else do you explain the despicable behavior of the Nebraska state legislature, in deciding that the Omaha school system should be divided along racial lines?

You know, we here in the Garden State have to endure an endless barrage of bad jokes about our homeland.  But at least we don't do stuff like this here.

"History will not, and should not, judge us kindly," said Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.

You got that right.

Spring Break started 90 minutes ago.

sun1.JPG    Yip-pee.  Finally. And it's a sunny 70 degrees outside.

Sometimes, they surprise you.

Spring Break starts the day after tomorrow.  It can't get here soon enough.  We're all getting to that sitting-in-the-faculty-lunch-room-grousing-all-the-time stage that tells us all we need a break, from the kids and maybe each other.  it's the time of year when you keep waiting for the roof to blow off, there's so much gas and static in the air.

And then something good happens to make your day.

I'm participating in my fifth MS Walk next month.  My younger sister has MS, and our family walks every year.  We usually raise a nice little chunk of change for our little team.  My colleagues at work – bless them all- are always VERY generous towards this cause.  I don't know how much I've raised so far this spring, but it's adding up.  I always take the little cardboard "donor sneakers" that the MS Society sends me and fill them out with donor's names as the donations come in, and then tack them up along the front of my classroom, kind of letting the kids know that, yes, there are big issues out there for them to get involved in.  I have a life outside of school, and this is one way they know that.

So far this year, I've received three unsolicited donations from my students.  This has not happened before.  I'm not supposed to ask kids or parents for money.  I don't.  I didn't ask this time, either.  The kids just wanted to chip in.  That has been very refreshing by itself.

Today, a girl who is not one of my students – she's in my homeroom, but not in any of my classes – brought in a check for me.  For $200.  She had gone home and told her mom about my Walk.  Mom went to work and got her company to cut me a check.  Just.  Like.  That.

Made my day.  Actually, it made my week.

Guess they WON’T be teaching that lesson on Whitman, either.

equality_flag.jpg     The good "Christian" people who run the Rowan-Salisbury school district in North Carolina have decided to ban "all sexually-oriented clubs — gay, straight or otherwise — and to address any student's emotional issues concerning sexuality with guidance counselors."

Read the story here.  Read about how one adult resident is upset that the high school's "Rebel" mascot has been banned (kinda shows where he's coming from), and how a parent who spoke in favor of such clubs, and in support of gay and lesbian students – kids – was booed.  How classy.

Now, if these knuckleheads had done their homework, they would know that, for one thing, Gay-Straight Alliance-type clubs are not "sexually-oriented," whatever that means.  They might have even bothered to, oh, I don't know, visit a web site like this one to see for themselves what these groups actually do for kids, straight, gay, or otherwise. 

Instead, they caved to the likes of professional fundamentalist hate-monger Flip Benham.

Pathetic.  I hope some of my ACLU dues go to pay for the lawsuit I smell coming.  I just might have to write another check.

(Thanks for the heads-up to Pam's House Blend.)

Another “no duh” story for this week.

dookey_duke.jpg    Seems to be a lot of "no duh" going around right now.  You won't believe this.  Sit down and take a deep breath now.  Ready?  Here goes:

"By the NCAA's own scorecard, about half the players of the men's top college basketball teams in this spring's final games are failing students."

It's about the money, it seems.  Money that the NCAA just loves raking in.

What do we say about Walt?

Walt_Whitman_older.jpg   Way back in a previous life – when I taught high school English – I used to spend extra time on Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.  Whitman lived a significant part of his life – and died – right down the road from me in Camden, New Jersey.  That added relevance to what I was teaching. 

I also used to mention that Whitman was gay.

Why not?  It certainly had relevance.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote Sonnets From the Portuguese because she was truly, madly, deeply in love in love with Robert Browning.  It kind of helps students of that work to understand that.  It informs their understanding of the work.  It gives them the whole picture.

So why object to stating the facts about gay or lesbian authors in English class?  Or gay or lesbian anybody in any class?  What are the opponents of this afraid of?  That gay or lesbian students may see that people like themselves can not only exist, but function and maybe even contribute to the making of art or history?  Is that it?

Oh.

The “no duh” story of the week.

mortal_kombat_1.jpg  You'd never have thunk it

"After playing a violent video game, young men are more likely to think it's okay to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol, raising the possibility that exposure to violent media could negatively affect health-related behavior."

Frankly, I'm shocked.  Simply shocked.

Now, I know it's not a real "liberal" position to assert that stimuli such as, say, video games, or certain lyrical content in popular music, or violent images in movies, might actually have at least a desensitizing effect on those who partake of these types of media.  I don't really care about those kinds of labels when it comes to an issue like this.  There are all kinds of reasons why the society we live in is as violent as it is.

I'm willing to contend that this is just one reason.

“Survivor: Elementary Classroom.”

logo_s8_new.jpg   There's been a very long and interesting conversation over at Creek Running North to a posting by Chris Clarke about his wife, who teaches public school.  One of the many comments came from spyder, who shared this with us.  Hope spyder doesn't mind me sharing it with you (slightly edited New Jersey version):

"Have you heard about the next planned Survivor-type reality show?

Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped into three elementary school classrooms for six weeks. Each business person will be provided with a copy of his/her school district’s curriculum, and a class of 28 students.

Each class will have five learning-disabled children: three with A.D.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three will be labeled with severe behavior problems.

Each business person must complete lesson plans at least three days in advance with annotations for curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create materials accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct, implement technology, document attendance… write referrals, correct homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards… document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent conferences, for starters.

They must also supervise recess and monitor the hallways. In addition, they will complete drills for fire, tornadoes, and mass shootings.

They must attend 100 hours of workshops, faculty meetings, union meetings, and curriculum development meetings.

They must also tutor those students who are behind and strive to get their two non-English speaking children proficient enough to take the state-mandated Terra-Nova tests.

If they are sick or having a bad day, they must not let it show. Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social studies into their program. They must maintain discipline and provide an educationally stimulating environment at all times.

The business people will only have access to the golf course on the weekends, but on their new salary they will not be able to afford it anyway.

There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and lunch will be limited to 30 minutes.

On days when they do not have recess duty, the business people will be permitted to use the staff restroom as long as another survival candidate is supervising their class. Even then, they will have to "go" quickly.

They will be provided with two, 40-minute planning periods per week while their students are at activity classes. If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials at this time, provided they follow all legal guideline. 

The business people must continually advance their own education on their own time, and pay for this advanced training themselves. This can be accomplished by moonlighting at a second job or marrying someone with money.

The winner will be allowed to return to his or her former job."

Love it.  They wouldn't last one period.

What kids really want.

Sometimes they surprise you.  All you have to do is ask.

I'll be curious to see what others think about this.

Local Teacher-Student “Inappropriate Relationship” Update.

She's pleading guilty (see first post below).

There is power in a UNION.

Today was the day our "Association" voted to ratify (or not) our new three-year contract.  I am a building rep for my half of the school in which I teach.  I got to "run" the election there.  It's my first one in this role.  I am not happy about what I think the outcome will be, but being involved this deeply has really got my teacher enthusiasm going across the board, so that's a good thing. 

I'm feeling very Woody Guthrie-Joe Hill-Billy Bragg today.

There is Power In The Union 

There is power in a factory, power in the land 
Power in the hand of the worker 
But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand 
There is power in a Union  

Now the lessons of the past were all learned with workers' blood 
The mistakes of the bosses we must pay for
From the cities and the farmlands to trenches full of mud
War has always been the bosses way, sir 
 
The Union forever defending our rights                                                 
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far-off lands
There is power in a Union  

Now I long for the morning that they realise 
Brutality and unjust laws cannot defeat us
But who'll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send there lackeys out to cheat us? 

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child
There is power in a Union

The Union forever defending our rights
Down with the blackleg, all workers unite
With our brothers and our sisters from many far-off lands 
There is power in a Union.

Feeling any safer now? Hmmm?

On my other, more political blog, I'd put this under my continuing series of posts titled "Your tax dollars at work, v. whatever."

So, do you?  Feel safer now?

Here we go again.

Another plot by students to massacre their classmates.  This one right down the road from me.

Here are some clues as to why this keeps happening:

"Police said one [suspect] had tried to buy weapons from underground dealers who took the youths' money but never produced guns. Another dealer was arrested on a warrant before he could hand over guns, authorities said."  Translation: Easy access to weapons of mass destruction (firearms), even by teenagers.

"The fathers of the three suspects attended the hearing [after the suspects were arrested]. Two left without commenting, and a third, swarmed by reporters, made brief comments as he left, saying that his son was 'a good kid' and that the whole matter might be a misunderstanding."  (Emphasis mine.)  Translation: Parents are in denial about how seriously ill their own children must be to even contemplate doing something like this.

"[A senior student] said everyone at the school was aware of what had happened but that few seemed scared."  Translation: People (especially students) have been so desensitized to violence that they don't take a threat like this seriously.  Or they are just completely clueless.  More likely the latter.

"A pep rally was canceled last Friday; an auction was postponed yesterday. A pre-prom assembly might be canceled next week, [the senior] said…'It's just a setback,' [she] said. 'It's just a waste of our time.' " Translation: See previous translation.

" 'I don't really care, as long as the cops take care of it,' [the same student] said. 'I don't think they were really going to do it, anyway.' "  Translation:  What more needs to be said?  There were threats being made by the Columbine killers months before they slaughtered their classmates, a teacher, and themselves, and nobody listened then, either.

Final translation: Time to wake up now.

More on this added 4:55 pm: "Terror Charges for Boys Accused in Plot"

Throwing up your hands might be all you could do…

22710799.jpgin this case.

Let's carry this out to its logical conclusions, shall we?:

– In a world history class, studying World War Two: "Isn't all that Holocaust stuff just a myth?  Didn't they make those movies in Hollywood?'

– In an American history class: "Isn't it true that Blacks never had it so good as when they came over here as slaves?  I mean, Africa was so primitive back then."

– In another American history class: "The Indians were just savages.  Putting them on reservations just made their lives simpler, right?"

– In another American history class: "The worst thing that ever happened to women was giving them the right to vote, right?  Before then, they had it soooo easy…"

Read what some of these kids said to this teacher.  Convince me they aren't being provided with a script by someone with an agenda.  The agenda I see is designed to completely disrupt this teacher's teaching, to undermine the educational process for political purposes.  The rest of the students in this class are being denied a science-based education by disruptive students who ask inappropriate ("Don't you go to church?  Don't you believe in God?") and irrelevent questions.

The "debate" here is something to be taken up in a comparative religion class, not in a biology class.  In biology, there is no debate about evolution.  We know this from the facts.

Don't bring your version of your faith into my classroom, if you only intend to use it as a weapon to keep me from doing my job as a teacher.  Don't send your students into my classroom with an agenda designed to disrupt my teaching and keep other kids from learning what I'm being paid to teach.

And I promise to keep my grammar lessons out of your pulpit.

(photo from LA Times)

Ouch.

MM_SHELL_40mm_24rnds_fs.jpg  I think somebody needs a pass to see the nurse

Hair Threat Level Alert: Red Highlights.

this_hair_is_dangerous.jpgWith everything else that's going on these days in your average American junior high / middle school – violence, drugs, bullying, too-early sexual activity, gangs, anorexia, cutting, cyber-harrassment, divorce, STDs, guns, No Child Left Untested mandates, MySpace predators, underage drinking, low state test scores, etc. – it seems to me that the folks who run Bueker Middle School in Marshall, Missouri, just might have more important things to worry about than this.

Good grief.

(Previously posted on Quaker Agitator.)

Here we go again.

The accused.I hate to start out with a post with a story like this, but this just came over our local "Action News" station in Philadelphia ("action" defined as "the most violent and/or salacious news of the day").  Yet another female teacher has been arrested for having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, in this case, a 34 year old woman having a "relationship" with a sixth grader.

Yup.  A sixth grader.

Where I was raised, we call that rape.  In light of the recent case in Florida, it will be interesting to see how this case progresses. 

Welcome to my new blog.

mmmm1.jpg

Here I will post discussion and commentary – and just some interesting news and stories – of interest to me, because I'm a public school teacher.  I'm interested in education policy, and really anything related to the topic.  I will NOT discuss my students, because what happens in my classroom stays in my classroom.  Unless it's really inspiring, which happens every once in a while. 

Stay tuned: it's going to take a while to get this going.