The Pimp Slap of Knowledge

March 31, 2010

Tener Ganas

Filed under: Uncategorized — philosophunk @ 3:37 am

Today, we lost Jaime Escalante, the inspiration for Stand and Deliver (1988), as well as many teachers nationwide.  In memoriam, the Washington Post re-ran the 1982 article chronicling Mr. Escalante's remarkable successes on the AP Calculus exam in an urban, predominately Latino school.  Not only was his achievement amazing, but it was so amazing that ETS questioned the validity of his students scores.  Moreover, the article's description of Escalante illustrates many traits (commitment, differentiation, routines, high expectations of all learners) that make for exceptional teachers.  Although he challenged his students to have the ganas to succeed; he truly had the ganas to unwaveringly believe in the youth he served.


March 16, 2010

Classroom Goldmines

Filed under: Uncategorized — philosophunk @ 4:26 pm
I wish I had found this in my classroom: And I Am Not Lying » Blog Archive » Types of Bitches

It reminds me of what i did actually find in my classroom during my first week:

November 11, 2008

Formative Years

Isn't this what a GDS family looks like?


We’ve got a new President, and the White House will soon have a new hypo-allergenic, adopted, puppy mill-rescued canine playing on the grounds.  Although determining what type of puppy to get Sasha and Malia is a task that will undoubted receive more scrutiny than his solution to the global economic crisis, President-Elect Barack Obama has substantially bigger fish to fry in the selection of educational institutions for his adorably sweet pre-Washington daughters.

A school for their daughters is probably the most difficult choice that the Michelle and Barack will have to make in the coming eight (that’s right, I said it) years.  Hopefully, when the family leaves the White House, Sasha will be 18 and Malia, 15.  These girls will not only be learning some of the most important lessons of their life at their new school, but they will grow into young women.  Thus, it is imperative that the President- and First Lady-elect read this review of the schools that the family should consider in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area.  As an educator and native of this city, I am certain that I can offer the Obamas the essential informed and unbiased  opinion of the area’s educational institutions of all types: public, private, parochial, and other.  Whether they listen is up to the omniscient intergoogleweb.

Despite Michelle Rhee’s efforts, the DC public school pickings are slim.  Thus, we will definitely disqualify them for the running.  Moreover, I don’t think that the Catholic and Christian schools in the area can hold a candle to the region’s independent schools, so that pretty much rules them out as well (except for some of the establishments serving male populations).  Thus, in no particular order (actually, my increasing endorsement), here is what I feel are the Obamas’ best choices of schools for Sasha and Malia.

3) Beauvoir & The National Cathedral School. This beautiful school has most recently been home to Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s daughters, with his son atteding the boy’s equivalent, St. Alban’s until he was “not asked back” due to transgressions related to a certain leafy green substance in middle school.  Beauvoir and NCS could be a good fit, as it is an environment that pushes students academically, while still allowing them to pursue their individual interests.

2) Sidwell Friends School. I would certainly put my money on the girls’ attending either Sidwell or the school that I feel would be the best fit.  Al Gore III and Chelsea Clinton graduated from this institution, just up the street from NCS.  In addition to an excellent academic reputation, Sidwell also offers tremendous athletics, should Sasha and Malia decide to follow Barack’s hoop-shooting footsteps.  With excellent facilities and the Quaker beliefs that make for tempered, tolerant, and intelligent young adults, the Sidwell Friends School would definitely provide the girls with a thorough education.

1) Georgetown Day School. In my heart of hearts, I hope that Barack and Michelle decide to send their daughters to this school, which I will always hold dear.  Having spent kindergarten through eighth grade at this haven of of learning on MacArthur Boulevard in Georgetown, I feel that I can speak effectively to the merits of the school.  Rather than forcing students to learn in a rigid environment that dictates learning, GDS reacts to the interests of the learners, allowing them to explore the content that interests them.  With a rich curriculum from which I draw knowledge to this day, GDS is an environment to which I send my children in a heartbeat, and I hope that Barack and Michelle choose to provide their daughters with the diverse, nurturing, and in-depth education that they deserve.

Now that we know that Sasha and Malia will become Mighty Hoppers in January, the only remaining question for the transition team is, “Who’s going to be their tutor?”  I’ve heard great things about a charter school science and math teacher. Highly recommended.  References available.  Representatives from the Obama  team can contact me here, I’ll clear my schedule.

November 3, 2008

Let Me Vote Already!

I’m afraid that I’ve grown up.  I get home, and instead of taking a refreshing nap, watching highlights on SportsCenter, or a re-run of Family Guy, I watch MSNBC, CNN, or if I’m feeling particularly worn-out, Fox News.  Even though one of my good friends has worked for George Stephanopoulos’s Sunday talk show, This Week for over a year, I watched it for the first time yesterday – and couldn’t muster the strength to change it to the latest hotel room romantic comedy drivel.

As I was getting a haircut over the weekend, my barber told me, “You know you’re getting old when you go out of your way to watch CNN.”  It’s true.  Much of my youth was dedicated to trying to figure out why my Grandma enjoys watching Larry King.  My sister started watching it when she turned thirty, so I think I’m at least a few years away from that entertainmentless black hole.

The point is, I think my head is going to explode if I don’t vote immediately, and I hope you feel the same way.  Moreover, I fear that I am becoming a crabby old man, or the illegitimate love child result of an orgy between Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Greta van Susteren, Bill O’Reilly, Rachel Maddow and Chris Rock.  Between the Redskins playing tonight and the election tomorrow, if things don’t work out favorably, I think I have a 76% of having an aneurysm.  Compound that with the predictive power of the Redskins’ last game before the election and I’m in trouble.

October 26, 2008

Do You Want to Live Your Life on Easy?

Ah, progress reports.  That delightful time of the year when teachers hastily grade items so as to have tangible evidence of their assessment of student effort, understanding, and…progress.  Although the comments are a serious pain to write, once a critical mass of the class’s comments are written (i.e., every “type” of student  is represented) ctrl+C and ctrl+V, with minor modification, can take over.   For example:

[…]is a gifted mathematics student who has the potential to excel in any subject.  She can be a pleasure to teach, and that would be aided by her participating in class more.  Her behavior is generally not an issue, unless she is sleeping in class.  Despite this, her work is generally exceptional and her great attendance has allowed her to keep up with the material better than most students.  When […] puts effort into class, it is extremely evident, as her work is unparalleled.  She is also willing to ask questions, which is essential to understanding in mathematics.


[…]is a gifted student with some deficiencies in her mathematical understanding.  She is generally a pleasure to teach, as she is sometimes ready to participate without prompting.  She has no problem asking for help, but unfortunately, she can be distracted at times by her classmates, and is sometimes the cause of such distraction.  Her work is generally of a good caliber and her great attendance has allowed her the time necessary to approach mastery of the material.  I would like to see more focus from […], and a more hardworking attitude.

The comments are a necessary evil.  It gives the advisor something to use during the sit-down with a student, in case he or she doesn’t actually teach that student.  It’s extremely useful when teachers independently develop a convergent analysis of a student.  I think that helps to get the message to the student that a) they are really awesome, or b) they need to get their shit together.  Sometimes, however, the ones that really don’t have it together are so out of touch and/or nihilistic that one it takes a bit more than a comment to get to them.  These are the ones with whom a teacher invests all of their management energies on a daily basis.  No work completed, no desire to pay attention, constant talking, the list is endless.   Often, these behaviors are not purely out of a deficiency.  It may be boredom, only because it’s some of the most talented students who present in this manner.  Consider the comment I made to one of these Nietzschean students:

[…] is an incredibly talented student who is not currently working at his potential.  His attendance has thus far been abysmal, and his work habits and assignment completion are not reflective of his potential.  At times he can be distracting, but his behavior thus far this week has been a marked improvement over the previous month.  I only hope that he comes to understand his potential so that he can do the great things of which he is capable.

This one is a fifteen year old who could run circles around the rest of the class, but is so terrifically unmotivated that he is starting to regress.  For him, the comment was not enough.  It did not get the message home.  The sit-down was necessary.  During this talk, we got real.  We spoke about what he wants out of life, and that it’s necessary to demonstrate effort now so that he can grow accustomed to putting effort forth.  This wasn’t quite getting across, and he was still fairly unmoved.  It was at this point that the opportunity for a delightful analogy presented itself.  I inquired, “Do you like playing video games on easy?” to which he responded, “No, that’s boring.”  Booyah.  He walked right into it.  Attempting to conceal my self-content, I replied with the only response possible, “Do you want to live your life on easy?”

And then I hit Down, Up, Left, Left, A, Right, Down, and pulled his spine out.

And then I hit Down, Up, Left, Left, A, Right, Down, and pulled his spine out.

October 21, 2008


After several months of silence, I feel that I finally have something meaningful (completely up-to-you) to say. It’s taken a strange combination of teaching a population comprised mostly of undocumented immigrants, an inebriated conversation with a conservative consultant at a karaoke bar, my purchasing a skateboard, canvassing in Virginia and the steadfast approach of winter for me to realize that we, as a nation, are completely screwed if we don’t win this election.

1) Back to School

October is coming to an end and I feel like I am burnt out. But that doesn’t compare to the fact that my school is contemplating a switch to a year-round calendar, the students have no desire to take part in my activities, and I have no energy to wake up in a timely fashion for me to make it to work un-tardily. I spend all my free time working on something, and I have no desire to change anything, because I love every minute of it.

2) That Tramp at Millie & Al’s

purple rain, purple raiiiiiiiiiiiiiin.

purple rain, purple raiiiiiiiiiiiiiin.

I thought I was being slick inserting myself into a conversation she was having about universal health-care (foolishly assuming that she, like most attractive women at Karaoke, favors it). It turns out that she is not in favor of it for any pertinent, sound, or meaningful ideological reasons, but rather, because, “she doesn’t want to pay for healthcare for illegal immigrants.” Really? Can you understand the plight of an undocumented worker any less? Do you really think that someone who’s terrified of being deported is going to seek social services from the government? And then I sang “Purple Rain”.

3) Quarter-Life Crisis/Maverick-y Actions

one day

one day

I bought a skateboard at a skateboard boutique on Friday. I didn’t even know they had those. But they do, and they are full of the chic-est goods that one can find in an up-and-coming gentrified neighborhood. Nevertheless, I was extremely proud of my purchase, so much so that I ventured into a tertiary street to practice skating, when I promptly fell on my ass several times. But, it’s a nice mode of transportation, assuming that I can learn how to maintain my balance and stop bruising myself. Hey, at least I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy.

4) The Swing State Experience

During my canvassing, I realized several things. First, people in suburbia have a completely different way-of-life. I had forgotten this in my adventures in the big city. Also, the vast majority of people will not answer their door when a 6’3″ Black stranger knocks, unless they themselves are black, their boyfriend is a black male with dreadlocks, or they are already voting for Obama. Finally, the demographic information on the forms is remarkably deceiving. Let’s have an experiment (I have changed names to protect the innocent). You are walking up to the door of Jane Doe, 22 F. Imagine what she looks like…WRONG! She’s 5 feet tall, 250 pounds, and wearing a tank top that shows far too much for her to be opening the door.  Personally, I blame the liberal media for biasing our opinions.

5) The Weather Outside Is Frightful

nothing beats it.

nothing beats it.

I lost/misplaced/had my jacket stolen. It’s too cold out, and my bundling is taking a toll on my skateboarding mobility. But besides that misfortune, there’s nothing better than Autumn in DC.

June 22, 2008

What happened to antidisestablishmentarianism?

Bill Turque reports in his June 17 article, “7 Catholic Schools in D.C. Set to Become Charters“, that Assumption, Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, Holy Name, St. Francis de Sales, Immaculate Conception, Nativity Catholic Academy and St. Gabriel have each been granted approval by the DC Public Charter School Board to reopen this fall as Public Charter Schools. These schools will be operated by the Center City Public Charter Schools, the charter school branch of Center City Consortium, an organization designed by the Archdiocese of Washington to help financially-struggling Catholic schools.

Beyond the problems with accountability that antagonists of charter schools cite as a major problem with the rapid expansion of the city’s charter schools, there are several deeper and more disconcerting issues with allowing schools that are ostentatiously religious to receive public funding. No matter how secular the schools claim they will be in the fall, that cannot change the fact that many of them are based in churches and on hallowed ground. These school will tacitly retain religious character no matter how much they sanitize their grounds.

I have no problem with Catholicism (I was raised Catholic), nor do I have a problem with parochial schools operating as private entities to fulfill a religious mission. The issue is that these failing and struggling schools were probably failing and struggling for a reason. Members of the Charter School Board stated that “their sole responsibility was to approve a responsible plan to help children who were at risk of losing their schools.” Since when is appropriating public funds to assist a privileged-few students who attend a school based on its religious principles considered “responsible”?

Responsible would be noting that private schools operate as enterprises that are subject to the market. When the market says something like, “this company is going out of business”, usually the company is selling a product that is not financially sustainable. These struggling Catholic schools were selling education, and it does not make sense for DC to use public funds to bail them out. Note that the proposal’s approval was accelerated “because the Catholic schools already have buildings, staff employees and students”. Thus, nothing is going to change, except the financial cushion that the DC Public Charter School board is providing.

Just as Video Killed the Radio Star, it seems that the DC Public Charter School Board killed the First Amendment:

June 21, 2008

Charter schools, Ikea style

Nestled between a blurb about the impending purchase of Anheuser-Busch by InBev, and a report on Europe’s biotech sector is a quaint story about a Swedish company’s method of privatizing public education. “The Swedish model“, from the June 12th edition of The Economist, describes the manner in which 1994 legislative reforms “allow pretty much anyone who satisfies basic standards to open a new school and take in children at the state’s expense.” Similar to the manner in which many American charter schools operate, the local government pays the “private” school what it would have cost for the child to remain in the public education system, anywhere from $8,000-12,000. According to the article, over 10% of the nation’s children currently participate in such schooling.

Unique about these schools is not that they exist, but rather the manner in which they operate. First, in receiving payment per-pupil, the schools are not allowed to inflate costs, but there is no provision against the school’s making a profit. Also interesting is the design and methodology employed by the largest of the schools, Kunskapsskolan (literally, “Knowledge Schools”). Similar to Maria Montessori‘s educational method, the schools merely provide the learning environment for the students, in partnership with teachers and tutors, to direct their own learning at their own pace.

Two interesting questions arise from these schools’ existence:

  • Is it reasonable for schools to get paid in excess of the costs associated with educating a student?
  • Is a self-directed classroom the model that all schools should follow?

Fundamentally, education should not be a for-profit concept. This, however, is not mutually exclusive with schools’ getting paid in excess of the costs of education. It is completely reasonable for schools to receive the same money that would be spent on that student in the public education system. However, something reasonable should be done with the surplus. That is, it shouldn’t go into the CEO’s pockets. I would suggest initiatives that Kunskapsskolan has used, such as bonuses for leaving successful schools to teach at under-performing ones, and rewards for achievement-inducing educators.

The latter question is best answered by looking at a product of a Montessori nursery school (this guy). So the answer is yes and no. It is hard to generalize across all children, but there is something to be said for an approach that allows students to learn at their own pace and through their own discovery. It’s like the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”. On the other hand, if one begins education in such a method that so emphasizes experimentation and hands-on principles, it seems almost incompatible with other pedagogies, in that students would experience a drastic change in the structure that could be unnerving.

Regardless of the answers of these questions, it seems that Sweden has once again out-designed America, and we soon be knocking at their doors to get a copy of their blueprint. I only hope that there are words this time…


June 19, 2008

A Sith Lord Among Us

Is it just me or are Chancellor Michelle Rhee‘s latest terminations eerily reminiscent of conniving Senator/Emperor/Sith Lord Palpatine. Is it possible that the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has fallen under control of a Sith Lord? The Washington Post, along with 22 recently terminated administrators, might have you rushing to convene the Jedi Council. V. Dion Haynes’ June 19 piece, “22 Assistant Principals Are Latest to Be Fired” characterizes Ms. Rhee as a cold-hearted leader constantly usurping power.

In March, after the D.C. Council gave Rhee the authority to reclassify hundreds of employees in the central office, she fired 98 people. Last fall, when Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) sought the reclassification, Rhee said she wanted the same authority to fire ineffective teachers.

Sound familiar? It should, because the manner in which Senator Palpatine was granted emergency powers from the Galactic Senate in that cautionary tale, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, should be fresh in our minds. It was all downhill from there. It is not that her firing of unsatisfactory administrators is inherently bad, but they have the right to know why they were fired. They also deserve more than a week’s notice. One may consider tossing in an official evaluation, as well.

I don’t want to challenge her authoritarian regime, I mean, authority, but I wonder what the goals of these firings are. Are these assistant principals going to be given positions at other schools (a la teachers who have been fired from schools that don’t make AYP)? Like the Battle of Endor, we’re going to have to see how this shakes out. I only hope that the Chancellor has not learned to emit lightening from her fingers…

Boston Public

There are really only a handful of good things to come out of Boston. In honor of the NBA Championship’s return to Beantown, I will recapitulate those sacred few things that our culture is blessed to gain from such an otherwise detestable metropolitan area. (NB: You will find no support of the Boston Red Sox on this page.)

  1. Serials produced by David E. Kelly. LA Law, Picket Fences, The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Boston Public have each played a part in my development as an awkward human being.
  2. Boston Tea Party. Maybe this is the reason for the bravado taken on by most Chowderheads. One justified act of protest, and the rest of us are subjected to 225 years of “Sweet Caroline”.
  3. Jeremy Roenick. He was so sick in NHL ’96 for Sega Genesis.
  4. NHL \'96.  What?

  5. Non-rhotic accents. I generally hate them, but after reading this entry, they earned a mention.
  6. Kevin Garnett‘s 2008 NBA Finals post-game interview with Michelle Tafoya. It speaks for itself:
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