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Thursday
Jun122008

Would AC improve student performance?

The three best reasons to be a teacher - June, July and August.

School's out for the summer here in our district. The halls are quiet. Male administrators are wearing golf shirts instead of ties. Parking spots are easy to find. Tuck pointing and blacktop resurfacing is going full bore. All the signs of summer are upon us.

There is the stray teacher wandering the halls looking for a curriculum writing group and soon a few  summer school students will be slinking in. But this week, it's quiet. Too quiet.

And our kids are all home diligently forgetting everything they learned over the past nine months. Bored.  Playing Grand Theft Auto. Watching Jackass. Getting pregnant.

Year-round school seems like a no-brainer to me. This is how Saudi ARAMCO's year-round school year operated (operates?) when I taught there in the 80's:

  • September, October, November - regular school days 
  • December - intersession or vacation
  • January, February, March - regular school days 
  • April - intersession or vacation
  • May, June, July - regular school days 
  • August - intersession or vacation

Teachers got a one-month (actually 5-week) block off during each school year - either in December, April or August - as best fit company needs. Most families had a similar vacation schedule. While a third of the students and teachers vacationed, the rest of the school participated in "intersession." (I did not feel deprived having but a month off and found that vacationing in April was fantastic - cooler weather and no crowds in much of the world.)

I loved intersession. The mornings were devoted to helping kids who fell behind during the previous three months get caught up. The afternoons were given over to informal learning - crafts, games, hobbies, sports and other ways of learning that were more social and fun than the regular classroom. My favorite intersession offerings were Learning Logo, Myths and Legends of Many Lands, and bowling. It was great getting to know kids in a less structured setting.

Pretty easy to see the advantages of such a school calendar. Of course kids here in Minnesota are needed on the farm during the summer to help Dad put up hay and can tomatoes with Mom. Yeah, right.

Yes, our schools lack air conditioning. It's unlikely the state is willing to pop for two more months of salary for teachers. Some kids and employers would be inconvenienced by such a calendar.

But isn't the real reason we don't have year-round school simply tradition?

Schools are about maintaining traditions and norms, not about changing them.

Too bad for a lot of kids who could use year-round schools. And a lot of teachers who would like to be considered full time employees.

prague_IMG_1859.jpg

Wednesday
Jun112008

Evolution as an artist

If you only read the Blue Skunk blog in your RSS feed aggregator (GoogleReader, Bloglines, etc.), you are missing out on a treat.

My son Brady has been creating cartoon "blue skunks" for me since the inception of the Blue Skunk in 2005. His creations appear in the blog heading. I have enough now on file to change them twice a month - or as I remember. And yes, I stole the changing logo idea from Google.

I've found it interesting to see how he has grown as an artist. This cartoon was one he created 4 years ago for our book Machines Are the Easy Part: People Are the Hard Part:

 oldskunk.jpg
Not bad.
 
But check the latest that will be appearing in a blog header soon:
 
bsgarden.jpg
His experiments with watercolors seem to be working.
 
Anyway, if you don't look at the Blue Skunk site itself now and then, you are missing out on one of its best features.

 

Tuesday
Jun102008

What is your AUP's reading level?

We advise kids never to sign something they've not read or do not understand. But then we demand they do just that.

It's always troubled me that students are expected to know, understand and follow our district's board adopted Internet Acceptable Use Policy despite it being far above most students' (and most probably many parents') reading levels. I checked - Policy 524 comes in at a 12.0 grade reading level according to the readability engine in Word.

 isd77aup.jpg

 

I've never figured out exactly what to about this situation. Restricting Internet use only those students who could read at 12th grade reading level never seemed an option.

So I was pleased to see that one of our middle school library media specialists, Cindy Pischner, created a simplified version of the district AUP for kids and parents to sign.

jhaup.jpg

OK, Word still says it is at a 12.0 reading level, but at least it's one page instead of eight pages long and looks more accessible. It hits the important parts of the official policy and includes a link back to it.

How does your school deal with students expected to sign an agreement that they may well not understand?