A Teachers Viewpoint

Location: Texas, United States

I am a teacher with 33 years experience in public education. The purpose of this web log is to critically examine the present state of education in our great country and, particularly, in Texas.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

No grades - I can get behind this - if

Carmine Park Elementary School may be the first school to truly experiment with the elimination of the traditional grade levels.

Carman Park Elementary School may soon be a grade-free school.

Students would learn based on ability level, regardless of age. If a fourth-grader is ready for algebra, he or she would be grouped with children of varying ages studying algebra.

I strongly support this approach if all the various levels are truly addressed. The ideal situation in education is an environment in which kids are actually allowed to progress at their own appropriate rate. The problem will develop if there are teachers in this program who are absolutely devoted to the kids who learn differently or at a slower rate. I share this view with Jenny D whose excellent post can be found here. She rightly worries about the kids who are struggling. Too often in the past, students who were difficult or who were perceived as having learning difficulties were shuffled off to less capable teachers with fewer resources.

The same thing has been true of students who were either able or just much more motivated. These students frequently found themselves meeting roadblock after roadblock.

However, this is an effort that I would encourage everyone to get behind. The problems will be great. The kids will have to be followed very closely. Those who can go fast may well go very fast. The teachers may find themselves jumping through hoops to keep enough in front of them. The kids who are behind will have to have enough really creative teaching techniques to assure that they learn to mastery.

I congratulate this school on getting out of the box in the truest sense. They deserve the support of the education community. Personal agendas need to be set aside with regard to this experiment. Good on them!

Monday, March 28, 2005


Tonight I finished a course of study that lasted 24 weeks at my church - Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. We all got a very nice certificate, video was made of the evening for a production, we all walked. When a guy was called up to get his certificate we all cheered wildly and yelled encouragement. We had a ceremony to make the completion of something difficult and meaningful. I felt like I was on cloud nine. When you walked off the stage you walked through a double line of men who had gone before you. Each man who walked through the line got high fived, patted on the back, blessed, congratulated and it felt so good. So why won't this work with kids. At the end of a difficult unit teachers could have a ceremony. We don't have enough cerimonies marking the growth of a youngster. They have no feeling that an important milestone has been crossed. It's just another day.

Ceremonies work. They build people up and celebrate their triumps. People get to mark a place and move on. It's proof you did it. A sense of accomplishment - it's so simple. Maybe something will change in the persons life because of a gfreat and early success. It's simplistic, but it works for human beings.

God Bless

John J

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

For Red Lake

Today all educators feel a sadness that, for some, is too deep for tears. We live in a time when the most joyeous times of youth are sometimes shattered by the an appalling darkness. Today is a day when all educators should stand with their colleagues at Red Lake. We have all seen kids who, for one reason or another, seem to be a split-second from an insane decision.

But, I would remind all of us of this; we chose our work because we are willing to stand watch at that place where the extremes of culture and the extremes of youth may come together explosively. We work in a profession that is constantly blamed for the ills of society. Yet, we cannot control the powerful tide of darkness that sometimes floods the soul of a child. We try everything we can to reach every kid we teach in spite of the heart-rending frustration that we all feel. We know that we cannot reach them all. We know that we cannot heal them or know when that one precious soul may descend into that ultimate darkness. But, we still stand at the brink. And, those of us who stay, do so willingly in the belief that somehow we will be able to help that one kid. Sometimes we ask ourselves if it is worth it, if we are doing any good when it seems that every current is running against us.

And all of us must remember, that, oh yes, it is worth it. Everyone of us has touched many lives. Everyone of us has blessed some child in a way that will reverberate through the generations. We can all look to many children whose lives are in some way better because we were there. Ours is one of the most blessed professions. We are given a life's work that will effect the future all of humanity for the better. Never doubt that your lifes work is worthwhile because what you do represents the best motivations of humanity.

I would like to share the note I sent to the principal of Red Lake, the faculty, the kids and the community in this dark time. I encourage everyone who reads this to take a moment and stand in their shoes. Try to imagine... then let them know that our profession forms a circle of love around them. Let them know. Don't let them think they are going through this without the thoughts and prayers of their colleagues.

An open letter the administration and faculty of Red Lake:

I want you to know that my prayers and thoughts are with you, your faculty, your kids and your community. God will see you through this. Also please know that the nation cries with you in this time. I have been involved in taking guns off kids. We live in times when events can spin out of control for reasons that we cannot control. I know how quickly the day can change from wonderful to the darkest horror.

You must remember that rule number 1 in education is that kids sometimes become completely lost. Rule number 2 is that, despite our best efforts, educators simply cannot change rule number 1. Please, please do not take this on your shoulders. And, please convey to your faculty not to take this event on their shoulders. There is no way that any educator can see any of this coming. A few years ago one of the most wonderful kids I ever taught lost his way and took his life. After much thought and prayer I realized that there was nothing I missed, nothing I could have done. We cannot know when a child’s life will drift into madness. We do what we can but there is only so much we can do.

I know without a doubt in my heart that all your wonderful kids have found their way to a beautiful place with God. This was not caused by you, nor God, nor your school. This happened because a very troubled child lost his way. Your work still has meaning. You are involved in a profession that will effect generations into times unimagined in the future. Your kids are and will be better for your work and your life. Don’t allow yourself to think that the horror you have walked through in any way changes the good that you are doing or the good that you will do. May God bless you, your teachers, your kids and your community.

John McGeough

Sunday, March 13, 2005

There is no mystery - there are no wrongs

Anyone want to know what is screwing up kids? Here it is. There is a perfect example in Maryland. Montgomery County Public Schools are instituting a version of sex education that makes a unique use of the lowly cucumber. I'll never be able to eat a salad again. In a recent piece by Cal Thomas we are informed that this system will be teaching kids in middle school and high school how to put a condom on a cucumber. Further, Mr. Thomas tells us that "They will also be taught that homosexual couples are the newest American "family."

We are also informed that the school district will be encouraging their students to "develop" a sexual identity.

One wonders if the school district is going to make any neanderthal like statements such as it is best to abstain from pre-marital sex? How are they going to present the "sexual identity" topic? And, what does this possibly have to do with the education of young people.

To me, this is just reprehensible.

When will parents have enough. School districts have absolutely no business getting into training children about how to have sex. Further, it is unimaginable that a school district would talk with kids about their sexual identity in a way that influences them one way or another. Schools have no business in what should be basic parenting. Unfortunately it is true that many parents have completely abdicated their responsibility for raising their children to schools.

I cannot imagine any parent allowing a school to give their child any instruction about the child's sexuality. If parents love what schools have done to education, then they will be enraptured by what they will do to their childs attitude about sex in general and their sexuality in particular.

Here is what will likely happen. The children in any school district are likely to be instructed by an individual who has absolutely no professional training in the subject matter they are required to teach. Most of them will be no more informed of the average person on the street about human sexuality. Likely, in the middle school the person will be a person like myself - certified in life/earth science with no training that gives them any credential to teach this vital and controversial subject. Further, these kids will be subjected to the views of those individual teachers. Most won't intend to put their views on center stage, but they will not be able to avoid it. They will do so with a raised eyebrow, a too-neutral expression, an inflection in their voice. Some may actually state their views about these issues.

As a parent I would not want that to happen. I am a teacher. I know teachers. Some are brilliant. But, some are barely functional. Some would drop dead if a thought passed through their heads. Cruel perhaps, but true.

Here is another fact that parents need to consider. There are some teachers that are wonderful people. But, there are also those who have the moral principles of really degraded alley cats. Both, those who are wonderful people and those who are reprehensible, ferral alley cats will be teaching these kids.

Among the more insidious ideas that permeate schools these days is the idea that anyone in schools know better how to raise kids better than the parents. This is about nothing else. In this case a school district has decided to indoctrinate children in a philosophy that holds that it is alright to have sex as a child. Teaching children the use of condoms presumes nothing else. Further, a school district has decided to make itself the arbiter of what is right and wrong about the issue of homosexuality. Nothing could be further from the proper mission of a school. This is an example of pure arrogance. The school is simply saying that we don't care if you want your child not taught how to have sex, we will teach them how to do it if we feel like it. And, we feel like it. The school is also saying that we have decided that we know best about how to approach instruction about your childs sexuality. And, we want to indoctrinate them with the idea that homosexuality is right and acceptable regardless of your backward opinion.

I say this to parents all over America and in Maryland. You have the power to tell this and any school district what can and cannot be taught to your children. Your power lies in your moral courage, your love for your children and your moral convictions. If you abdicate this to the school, may Heaven save your children. Not just from this issue but from any other issue that the propagandists leading some school districts decide to teach.

If you want to know why kids get pregnant, they do so because they do not believe it is wrong. Get over it.

If you want to know why some kids get so confused about their role as young men and women, it is because they have not been taught what is right and what is wrong.

Kids who steal do so because they do not believe it is wrong, so do adults.

Kids who lie do so because they do not believe it is wrong.

There are no mysteries here. Our children are having babies, doing drugs, becoming alcoholics, killing each other, engaged in sexual immorality, and Heaven knows what else because they do not have any sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Right and wrong is neanderthal these days. When you wonder why kids are having sex, performing all manner of perversions, and showing no respect for any societal standards look no further than the mirror. And, one of the primary mirrors in our society is the public school.

How dare they do this. More to the point, how dare any parent allow schools to do this.

Many, many kids are on the road to hell because no one had the guts to say this is right and this is wrong.

Well, Maryland, this program is wrong.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Looking around the internet

The brilliant Edwonks chose the same story as my post for today. They too saw the silliness in saying the pledge of allegance in Russian. Here

Over at Education Watch you will find a brilliant post about the various way a college education can be delivered. Here

The Unrepentent Individual is taking a few carefully aimed shots at the BMI. Here

Professor Plum has recently been concerned about the tragic state of toilet training. Yes, toilet training - check it out here

The blackboard jungle seizes the teachable moment. Here

Chris Correa has a spectacular article on the origins of IQ studies. Here

Number two pencil is taking aim at the SAT II. Here

Polski13 gets our attention with a few thoughts on getting the attention of kids. Here

No left turns looks at the religious left. Here

What a great reading menu.... enjoy!!!