Posts Tagged ‘education’

I know I haven’t written in a while. It looks like my last post is from January and I was a little upset with the WV Department of Education for blocking a whole bunch of stuff. Thankfully, they saw the light and unblocked a few things once they realized the internet’s not all big and bad. But, instead of finding bloggable topics, I ignored you and spent my time on the Twitter. I shared with people. I posted links. I ENGAGED IN CONVERSATION WITH LIKE-MINDED (and sometimes not so like-minded) EDUCATORS!

I’ve got to admit, Blog….it was good. So. Damn. Good. Me and Twitter…well, what we had was special. Maybe it was a little too special. I was tweeting a lot. I’d share links just so I’d see them in my sent feed and remember to go back later and read them. I made plans with people…found out about events…Hell, how do you think I found out that Dick Clark had passed away? The news? Facebook? Nope…it was Twitter who broke it to me. Twitter was good for that…always just a few steps ahead of everyone else.

But those days are sadly gone. My district has decided it knows more than our state department of education and has blocked it, along with Hootsuite and TweetDeck and anything that might even give a hint as to find a way to post to Twitter. (They blocked a lot of things…screwed over a lot of teachers who can no longer access sites they regularly used in class for various activities…all in the name of progress?) I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything more from a county who thinks a projector and doc cam are the stars of the Using Technology show. (Who am I to tell them anything different?)

So, here I am…running back to you, Blog. Slightly broken, disconnected, and sorry. Maybe you can help me. Maybe you can provide me with a place to share or vent. Hopefully you’ll take me back and not hold a grudge. I am TRULY sorry for leaving you out in the cold.



PS: I’d rather be Tweeting.


Update: The WVDE eventually unblocked Twitter. However, we still can’t access


I’m pretty sure the West Virginia Department of Education would block me for inappropriate content. I like to say bad words…especially the really bad ones. I also read books with sex, nudity, murder, rape, profanity, etc. I even occasionally watch rated R movies.

Of course, I don’t do any of this on school time or around students.

My music appreciation class has used several times this semester. I’ve created playlists to share with them and they’ve created them to share with me. Last week, I booked time in our school library for our final project for the semester. On day one of the project, several students chose to use as a resource. On day two of the project, playlist was blocked. Thankfully, the WVDE provides an email address and you can request a review if you feel a site was mistakenly blocked. I sent in my request and this is the response I received.

Thank you for your request. 

We have recently received a request to have this site blocked due to profanity in the music and user submitted comments.

We filter websites in accordance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) which states that we must filter for pornography, profanity, and content that is harmful to minors.   This site was found to be in violation of that criteria.

We hope you understand that while sites such as this offers many great educational resources, there is also unacceptable content as well.  At this time we will not be able to remove the blocking of this site in our filtering system.


I emailed back.

Who made the request?

If teachers are using the website in class and complaining about their students being exposed to profanity then I would question how well those students are being supervised.

I’ve used this site many times this semester to create playlists for my music classes with no problems. One class was even using it for part of their final project this semester, which is how we found out today that it’s now blocked.

I would ask that you reconsider having this site blocked.

Three days later…
I cannot provide information on the person who requested the page to be blocked.  The fact is that we review all requests to confirm that they do violate our filtering policies and this site was confirmed to do so.  We cannot unblock this site at this time.

*grumble grumble grumble*

Folks, I’m totally cool with filtering pornography. I personally don’t want my 7 year old to accidentally come across or when he’s supposed to be using the computers at his school. (Heck, I even have filtering software on my home computer…shh!) However, I really think the folks in charge are just being ridiculous. Do they really think we can block EVERYTHING that might be questionable? The BLOCK IT IT’S BAD mentality is crap. It doesn’t do what they want it to do and actually hurts the educational process. Teachers can no longer access Twitter. TWITTER???? Because someone might curse? Because kids could be exposed to profanity? Have these people never walked down a high school hallway? Just in case they haven’t, let me be clear: Kids don’t need Twitter to be exposed to profanity.  But hey, on the off chance some Amish kid who’s never heard an F-bomb hops on line and decides to tweet, let’s BLOCK IT!

As I write this I’m resisting the urge to sing the praises of Twitter for collaboration and professional development. I really could go on forever about the topic. I will say I’ve used Twitter with my students to bring professionals into our class. Author Scott Westerfeld tweeted a message to my students when I told him we were reading his book and creating a playlist to go along with it. Singer/songwriter Corey Smith weighed in on how the internet has changed the way musicians market themselves…yes, he did that using Twitter.  Even school reform guru Diane Ravitch read a blog post I wrote about school reform and sent a message to one of my students. How did this happen? You guessed it! Twitter. That connection to those people made my kids feel a little special and made what they were doing in class feel a little more real.

(But, Twitter’s bad…right? We have to protect the kids, right?)

Folks, we can’t block our way to safe childhoods. The internet is just like everything else. Instead of blocking everything that might be harmful, we should be educating our students and teachers about the appropriate uses of Twitter and Facebook. Instead of telling teachers they can’t be trusted to connect with students online, how about we educate kids on how to recognize inappropriate behavior and what to do if an adult approaches them online or in person? Am I crazy for thinking that’s a good idea?

Just a quick write about something that’s bugging me…


At the beginning of the school year I did two days of training to become a mentor teacher. I have a really awesome elementary music guy that I observe and meet with weekly. He’s doing really well, but I was a little weirded out by the way he was writing his lesson plans.

What I noticed with his was under “OBJECTIVES” he’d list what he wanted the students to know/do, but he’d also list his procedures. Am I wrong in thinking that’s wrong?

The conversation we had about it went like this…if you put something under “OBJECTIVES” it should have a standard that goes with it. It just makes sense to me. Anything else would go under another section.

He changed it, hopefully not just to make me happy but because it made sense to him as well.

Fast forward a bit…

I’m toying with putting together a website to put out a professional “hey this is who I am as a teacher” kind of thing. To figure out what I want my site to look like, I’ve been searching out other music ed professionals to see what they’re putting out on their sites. Some include sample lesson plans.  Several newer teachers do the same thing the teacher I mentor does…they put what I consider to be procedures under objectives. It just feels SO WRONG to me, lol. Am I alone in thinking it’s wrong? Is that just a common new teacher mistake? (That’s assuming that it’s a mistake at all, of course.)

(In my district, our lesson plans must be evaluated twice each semester so every teacher (in theory) is writing lesson plans. I’m going to check around and see what others in my building are doing.)


For the last couple of weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through  The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith. It was a reading suggestion from Jack Deskins, who is the Arts Coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education.  It’s been one of those books that I start highlighting from the first sentence because it just goes with my thinking so well.

Today was one of those fun days at school when 1,000 things are going on and kids are being called out of class for various things. My 2nd block class ended up with about 25% of the students left in the room when all was said and done.  Grant was one of the 6 left behind.

My first year teaching at my current school I had Grant in my beginning guitar class.  He drove me a bit insane. He’s one of those kids that’s too smart for his own good…the kind that makes teachers crazy because they can’t really teach him anything in the regular classroom. His thinking just surpasses what the “normal” teen has going on in his or her brain. (Or at least my perception of what they’ve got going on.)

Skip two years and I have Grant again in Music Appreciation.  We regularly talk about issues in education in this class. We’ve watched a Ken Robinson TED Talk. We read articles about high-stakes testing.  I encourage them to take charge of their learning and to not let it be something that just happens to them between the hours of 7 and 3.  I decided to share the book with Grant.

I let him read the preface. He latched on to the last line.

“But if you relax and simply read the book for interest, you’ll probably enjoy it more, learn more than you expect, and be less likely to forget points that are most relevant to you.”

Makes sense doesn’t it

It did to Grant. It’s pretty exhilarating to see a student get worked up over education…to see him go off about reading choice and other ed issues.  “Ms. E, the girls over there couldn’t tell you what was in the chapter Ms So and So assigned them to read for a test, but every one of them could tell you that Edward has his shirt off on page 254 of Twilight. You know why? That’s what they WANT to read. It means something to them!”

 “We’re not even being educated for today or tomorrow. We’re being educated for the past. This makes me angry. The sad part is it won’t make any of them (gestures to the other students) angry.”

Later, I offered to let him borrow the book once I finished. He said, “I don’t know if I can read that book. That’s the kind of book that will motivate me to do something and then it’ll make me angry when I realize I can’t do anything.”

So, what would you tell Grant? How can we justify giving him, and all the other students we see, an education that isn’t what they need to be successful? An education that doesn’t teach them to think critically or to question what they’re doing and why?

More than that, what do we do about those other students who are walking along being blissfully ignorant of the fact they’re getting shortchanged because we’re forced to teach to the test in the name of accountability?

(I did ask Grant if he minded me blogging about our conversation. He gave permission. Also, the quotes from Grant are his words. I took notes while we chatted.)

Over the summer I was very interested in and followed the story involving Missouri educators’ use of social media to communicate with their students. You can read about it here and here.  While the law’s purpose was to protect students from inappropriate contact from adults, a judge issued a temporary injunction halting it’s implementation.

Last night while watching the news a story aired from Ohio. Dayton Public Schools have put a similar policy in effect. I was annoyed but not alarmed until I heard something to the effect of Ohio was getting ahead of the game by banning contact between students and teachers through social media.

JAW DROP (I wish I could find a clip of the story to get the exact wording.)

How is banning something that’s a way of life for most of us getting ahead of the game? Barring a total collapse of the world as we know it (think a Stephen King-esque super flu or zombie apocalypse) social media isn’t going anywhere.

I get what these districts are trying to do, but they’re doing it the wrong way.

You can’t ban your way to safety. You can’t tell kids (and adults) “don’t do that” and expect them to behave the way you want them to.

Let’s face it, if someone wants to take advantage of a child they can do it without social media. Predators have done it probably since the beginning of time. They don’t need Facebook.

We need to be proactive and smart. Let’s teach adults the right ways to use social media with their students. Let’s teach our children how to recognize inappropriate contact and ways to deal with it…ways that will better serve them than a ban.

Why I teach? Music?

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Thinking out loud
Tags: , ,

I have this in a pseudo-nice wooden frame for my work area at school.


I don’t teach you music because it’s a science.

I don’t teach it because it’s math.

I don’t teach it because it’s a foreign language, and

I don’t teach it because it’s history.

I don’t teach you music because it’s physical education.

I don’t teach it for any of those reasons.

I teach it because it’s an art.

It allows a human being to take dry and boring things and create an emotion.

That’s one thing the computer still can’t do. It can’t create emotion.

I don’t teach you music because I expect you to go out and major in music.

I don’t teach it to you because I expect you to play or sing all your life, although I’d like you to.

I don’t teach it to you so you can relax and have fun either.

I teach it to you so you’ll be human.

…So you’ll recognize beauty…

…So you’ll be sensitive…

…So you’ll be closer to an infinite beyond this world…

…So you’ll have something to cling to…

…So you’ll have more love, and more compassion, and more gentleness…

In short, so you’ll have some more life.

Of what value is it going to be to you to make a prosperous living unless you’ve learned how to live?

That’s why I teach music.

The thing is, I don’t know that I want to teach music anymore.

I love music. I think it has the power to change lives. It gives me something I couldn’t find anywhere else.

But do I want to teach it? I’m not sure. It’s not like I want to teach some other discipline…it’s a question of staying in the classroom or not.

The question then becomes what would I do if I didn’t teach. I’m one of those “I’m a teacher, what the heck else could I be qualified to do???” kind of thinkers. While intellectually I know teaching gives me a ton of employable skills, the thought of actually applying those somewhere else is a bit intimidating.

I do love education. Even if I was out of the classroom, I’d like to stay in education. I’m incredibly interested in creating meaningful professional development…and of course the tech side of things always gets my juices flowing.

This blog entry has been one big ramble…just thinking through my fingers. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.

I begin each class with a writing prompt. I mentioned them in an earlier blog post…my zombie apocalypse prompt turned into something bigger than I had anticipated, but I was completely okay with it. My kids were thinking hard.

Today’s prompt was this: If you give one piece of advice to any person in history, that advice would be…

My music appreciation class seemed to have a difficult time with this. A few very quickly said that they would tell _______ not to get in the car or go to work on the day they died. Others took a little longer to decide. Several mentioned stopping the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy. One even said she’d tell Hitler’s mom to have an abortion.

One kid stopped me with his answer. He said, “I’d tell whoever invented school to not do it.”

Well, holy hell.

This did not come from a student I know very well. Until a week ago, my only real interaction with him was passing in the hallway…I just don’t know where he’s coming from to know why he doesn’t like school. I questioned him a bit. “What is it about school that you don’t like?” (Now I thinking of about a 100 different ways I could have phrased that differently instead of making it a like/don’t like choice, but too late now.)

To paraphrase the conversation….other students chimed in with their opinions…my kids are dissatisfied with the fact that they all have to take the same classes as everyone else. They don’t see the point. They want to learn about what they want to learn about. (duh!)

I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do…or if it was the wrong thing…maybe both…but I told the class, “I have a video that sort of addresses what you guys are saying. I’m not sure if I should show it to you or not. You may not like it. You may not understand it all. But, I’ll show it if you want to watch it.”

They said they’d give it a shot so I hooked up the projector and speakers and brought up Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. (Thanks for sharing it, Jack. It’s a game changer for me.)

To be completely honest, I didn’t think they’d watch the whole thing. I totally love it and geek out over it, but I didn’t expect a class of high schoolers to stick with it. But, they did. And they did it without talking. They were mesmerized. (I was shocked.) We had a good discussion afterward about what they saw/heard and their thoughts.

What I took away from sharing that video with my students was this: they care about their education. (Yes, earth shattering, isn’t it?) I think a lot of times kids are classified as lazy and apathetic when they’re really just bored. They want meaning. They want choice. We’re not giving it to them. We’re giving them a one size fits all education that doesn’t work. The more I think about, the more angry I get. I get angry for my students and I get angry for my own children. We’re failing them by not accepting the fact that they have different needs and different talents. FAILING THEM!

Disclaimer: I’m not promoting complete and total anarchy in the education system. I don’t think we need to toss out everything that’s good and everything that works in the name of transformation. But, we need to figure out if what’s good and what works is really working for our students or is it working for us?

We did eventually get to the lesson plan for the day, but I’m glad we took our little side trip into ed talk. My kids needed it. They need to feel like they have a voice and that someone is listening. ..even if it’s “just” me. But, in talking to them I realize there has to be a revolution. We can’t keep doing this thinking it’s right. It’s not.