Monthly Archives: July 2016

Doing Great Work

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

A Midsummer, Midweek Text

Here is a quick midweek text for you, to wit two context clues worksheets on flatter and flattery, an verb and a noun, respectively.

I hope you find them useful.

Charles Van Riper on a Teacher’s Responsibility to His or Her Students

A couple of weeks ago I circumnavigated northern Vermont and New Hampshire. After twenty years, I enjoyed seeing the Northeast Kingdom again. Making my way, I indulged in a favorite pastime, haunting used book stores. I stumbled across, I believe in St. Johnsbury, a book by Ken Macrorie called 20 Teachers: In Their Own Words, Extraordinary Educators from First Grade through Graduate School Tell What Works for Their Students and Why (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984). The book appears to be long out of print–a targeted search on Amazon (i.e. including both title and author name)  turns up some used copies, but a general internet search doesn’t (but it will net you rubbish like “20 Hot Teachers That [sic!] Slept With Their Students”). That’s probably just as well; the book is a mixed bag and poorly copyedited, a particular bugaboo of mine.

However, one of the 20 teachers whose remarks distinguish this otherwise lackluster volume is the late Charles Van Riper. Mr. Van Riper was a pioneer in the field of speech pathology and audiology. A severe stutterer, he knew whereof he spoke, wrote (he compiled an eclectic and extensive bibliography during his long career) and practiced. His practice as a speech therapist remained as important to him as his scholarly endeavors, and he was possessed of a beautifully clear sense of ethical compassion for his charges and a love for his profession.

Here is an excerpt from a statement Charles Van Riper made to his staff in 1967 (“or thereabouts”) that I thought important for those of us working with students who have diverse learning needs; I quote this from page 115 of the edition of 20 Teachers cited above.

Our duty to our students, to our cases, to all our fellows, is to set them free. We must not bind with our chains their potentials, for our own selfish needs or ego status or in revenge for our own enslavement. We must guard ourselves constantly lest we make them dependent upon us for our own ego-needs. This is hard to do, for many of our cases and students will seduce us into the master’s role, thereby absolving themselves of the burden of responsibility for their own failure to fulfill themselves. We must not blame them, for this is all they have known but we should not aid them in their folly. Each of us is responsible for the fulfillment of his potential….

How then can we help our cases and students to realize these truths, if truths they be? First of all we must hunt hard in each of them for every small sign of potential, focus upon it our spotlight of faith, reward its confrontation by our own pleasure in the insight. Next we must help them to search for alternative modes of action and insist that they choose the one most promising in the long run. To do this, of course, they must gather and scan the available information and do some predicting. This they will resist because of the labor and the responsibility involved. They should be encouraged in every way to get this and do this. We must not get it for them and do it for them though we can make it easier. But we must not say to them “This is what you should do or try.'”The moment we do this, we assume the role of master; we make them dependent. Always they should choose. We must help them learn to hunt for ideas and activities from any source, from books, from other members of the staff, from their own cortical convolutions or glands–but they should choose and we should not tell them which one they should choose. Let them find out!

All men should be their teachers and supervisors. A supervisor should be a companion, not a comptroller, he must not be a yes-no man, a good-bad man. We can control by praise as well as punishment. Accordingly, we must as teachers, therapists, and supervisors, be permissive, giving absolution for comprehended errors of judgment, but always helping our students to grow tall. Our responsibility is to make them responsible.

Considering the 2016 Election, Saul Bellow Hadn’t Seen Anything Yet

“Take our politicians: they’re a bunch of yo-yos. The presidency is now a cross between a popularity contest and a high school debate, with an encyclopedia of clichés the first prize.”

Saul Bellow

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

The Weekly Text, July 22, 2016

A couple of weeks in Vermont always does me a world of good. This weeks Text is three context clues worksheets stemming from the verb perceive. If you haven’t previously used context clues worksheets from Mark’s Text Terminal, you might find the users’ manual for context clues worksheets helpful for working with them in your classroom.

It’s summer! This is the payoff for teachers, and I am collecting every minute I can. I hope you find this modest post useful; as always, I would be grateful to hear about how you used these materials.

What is History?

“History n. An account mostly false, of events unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.”

Ambrose Bierce

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

George Santayana on Critical Thinking

“To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight of the blood.”

George Santaytana

Winokur, Jon, Editor. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: New American Library, 1987.

The Weekly Text, July 1, 2016

Are you done with the 2015-2016 school year? I gather that our school year here in New York City goes much later than other districts in the United States. Our last day was Tuesday the 28th.

So it’s summer break! I always schedule my share of fun for these months, but I also work some–because I want to. You can continue to look for the Weekly Text at Mark’s Text Terminal, because I only plan to miss three Fridays during the summer.

Over the years, as an employee of the New York City Department of Education, I’ve experienced a mixed bag of professional development sessions. A few years ago, at least in the school in which I presently serve, teachers were responsible for performing professional inquiry groups, which selected its own topic for, well, inquiry, and analysis, germane to the work we do, but obviously for improving pedagogy. For this week, then, here are–in three separate links–the raw materials for a professional development presentation on executive skills and function I wrote for the group I joined in the 2011-2012 school year.

First up are the the proposal for this inquiry group, and a learning support for teachers, which are the teacher’s materials for this presentation; first up is the proposal for this inquiry group, and a learning support for teachers; second, here are four student surveys to assess executive skills; third, and finally, here is a letter explaining these surveys to students. I adapted the student surveys from Ellen Galinsky’s excellent book Mind in the Making.

I hope these documents are in some way useful to you. I’d like to hear how, if you are so inclined.

Until next week….

Addendum, July 27, 2016: Here is the scoring criteria for the surveys that this professional development asks students to complete.