Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Attend Filmmaker Luke Holzmann’s Free Film School Course on Line

January 16, 2012

As a teacher (or even homeschooler), have you ever considered how adding filmmaking capabilites could enhance your teaching abilities with students?

The only materials you need to do so are a computer with high-speed internet connection, and a simple point-and-shoot digital camera with video capabilities (although higher levels of video cameras or those with more manual controls are always a plus).

Filmmaker Luke Holzmann now offers a free, online, 36-week course to all who are interested.  A brief description of the course and simple materials needed (which most of us already have) can be found HERE.

Filmmaker Luke Holzmann

Many teachers, students, and adults are interested in filmmaking, but most don’t have a clue where to start if they are not actually in school especially for this purpose.  Check out this exciting course, either to enhance your career skills, or as an enjoyable hobby.

I’m going to try it, and I’m signing up today.

–Lynne Diligent

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Cyberbaiting of Teachers, A New and Dangerous Trend

January 5, 2012

Well-behaved middle school students

A well-behaved middle-school student I tutor expressed her frustration to me with some of her formerly well-behaved classmates who now talk back to teachers and act up in the classroom.

When my student asked these friends why they now behave this way, they say it’s all about fitting in and being accepted by the “cool” group.

Anyone not accepted by this group is a target for their bullying.  My student has a mature attitude and refuses to behave this way; as a consequence, she has to stand up to various forms of insults and bullying constantly.

At one point, our school debated putting in cameras to film student behavior in every corridor and classroom, and then decided not to.

It may have been both about cost, and about invasion of privacy, as well as our school being a high-level college prep school in a Middle Eastern country.

However, lack of cameras is no longer a protection for privacy for anyone, as every student is now capable of filming anything and everything and posting it anonymously and publicly on-line.  As this article explains, many students are now purposely provoking a teacher to the breaking point with the advance intention of filming it and posting it on-line.  This form of bullying is both demeaning to teachers, and can cost many teachers their jobs.

All teachers need to remember that now, the eyes of the world are watching every second.  This applies not just to teachers, but to everyone.  Teachers, however, are more vulnerable because students with evil intentions are purposely setting out to put them in a compromised situation.

–Lynne Diligent

When a Former Student Turns Out Bad……

January 3, 2012

Teachers are human beings, and as human beings, we have human feelings.

Every year when I got a new class, being human, there were students I felt I liked and disliked.  But I always did my best to never let that affect me, and to get to know each student as an individual.  Almost always, after getting to know each student personally, I was able to find something to like about every single student.

Students behaving badly

Students who behave badly and cause a lot of trouble in class for the teacher and other students are most definitely not the same as those who have severe character flaws or personality disorders.  I could see right through the behavior of some of the worst-behaved students to see that in spite of their behavior, that they DID care about their friends, and have feelings for other people.  Provided they could stay out of delinquent behavior during their teenage years, I had every confidence that these students would grow up to be responsible adults and parents, and contributing members of society.

American rapist and serial killer Ted Bundy, as a child

However, in many years of teaching, there were only two students where I was not able to find anything to like.  These two students, even at mid-elementary school, scared me.   In both cases, I felt that there was something seriously wrong with these them.  Knowing the students’ parents somewhat, I did not see anything wrong in the parents’ character.  But the students had a very, very serious character flaw.  Midway through elementary school, they had not developed any conscience, and they both had no feelings whatsoever for other people, or other living things.

At one point during his school year, one of these children threatened me with he “was going to send viruses to destroy my computer” if I didn’t do what he wished” (I no longer remember what he wanted me to do do).  I talked to him many times throughout the year and he told me over and over that he didn’t care about anyone else besides himself.  And it was really true.  This boy was a reasonably good student and extremely intelligent.  While I hope for change in this boy, as he left my class, I felt that I would not be surprised to hear he had become a white-collar criminal in future years.

As the years have gone on, he is thankfully out of my class and out of my life, he is still around, but my assessment of him has so far not changed.  However, in his case, we still have the future to see what happens.

For the other boy, his future has already arrived.

When the second boy was in my class, he was already a hard-core pornography addict.  At this time, our Middle Eastern country was receiving triple-x pornography (the type where in America you would have to go to a particular part of town, show ID that you were at least 21 to even enter the store, and watch the movie in a “private” cubicle) right on the television, broadcast from Europe, over the satellite dishes.  Many parents were unaware that their children had discovered these TV channels.

Many students told me that they just flip the telecommand every time they hear their parents coming, and then just change it right back afterward.  I wondered at the time how this would influence the boys (and girls, too) who were exposed to this at such a young age, particularly as to how this would influence their future dating behavior and how they would treat or view the opposite sex when they got into their teenage and young adulthood years.

Knowing some of those children well at the time, and seven-to-twelve years having now passed, I see that those who were decent children in mid-elementary school have mostly continued to be decent young adults, and from what I hear from other teenagers, are going to be okay.  On the other hand, those who had problems, I’m sure those problems already had those character disorders accelerated and developed at a younger age than before.  In some cases, girls and boys have come to view behaviors as normal that are really not normal between loving adults.

From reading articles on the subject, pornography is most damaging to young boys when it is coupled with violence.

American rapist and serial killer Richard Ramirez, in high school

American rapist and serial killer Richard Ramirez, in high school. Ramirez was present at the age of 12 when his cousin Mike, a Vietnam Veteran, killed his own wife, the blood splattering on Ramirez. Previously, Mike had shown photos of himself in sex acts with Vietnamese women, and subsequent photos of the beheaded bodies of the same women, who he bragged to Ramirez about torturing to death.

So, this second boy in one of my classes, even although a hard-pornography addict in early elementary school, probably did not have his problems caused by the porn, but merely exacerbated by the porn.  He was a good-looking boy, but extremely lazy, always out of his chair, not interested in learning anything (although I did try quite hard to have some success with him).   He did some mean, nasty,  and even evil things to others even at that age.  (I’m sorry I cannot go into specifics; I wish I could, but I cannot.)  He did more mean and evil things as he aged, and continued to be a very bad student who was always in trouble.  The boy’s  father, who did care about his son,  died while his son was still in elementary school, and therefore he did not have a father’s influence during those important years.   Later on, he had a girlfriend for several years toward whom he was extremely abusive.  His behavior in many areas eventually got him expelled from high school.

He remains a dangerous person in a small town.  He is extremely rich, drives an expensive car, and is from a powerful family.  In societies like ours, this means that he has “carte blanche.”  He does horrible things which seem to escalate each year and which are becoming well-known, particularly among people of his own age group, and everyone feels that they cannot do anything because of the powerful family he is from.

Dominique Strauss Kahn

This is the same reason that Dominque Strauss-Khan was able to get away with his behavior for so long, was that he essentially has the same “carte blanche” in French society.  It is the reason why corruption continues in all societies where WHO you are is of primary importance.  When there is an evil person with “carte blanche,” neither the police, nor the judges, nor anyone will help.

So what people do, unfortunately, is to behave in an extremely servile manner toward that person, and “pretend” to be his or her “friend” just so that they will not fall on the bad side of that person.  “Carte blanche” means essentially that a person, or particular group of persons, is “above the law.”  The law does not apply to them, and no one in the society will DARE challenge them.  Anyone who tries will be hurt severely, or have their family hurt severely, and no policeman, court, or judge will lift a finger to help them.  This is another reason why there is such emphasis on WHO you know in these sorts of societies.  Often, your only protection is knowing someone MORE powerful than those who might be against you, who have the power to control this person, or protect you from other persons in that group who have “carte blanche.”

So, back to my student.  I really, really thought something was seriously wrong with this student even in early elementary school.  It’s clear that I was right.  The really dangerous thing, in my opinion, is a child who develops no feelings for others; it is what creates a sociopath.  And not every sociopath was abused as a child.  I wonder if Ted Bundy’s (American serial killer in the 1970s and 80s) or Jeffrey Dahmer’s (American serial killer of the 1980s) teachers saw something wrong with them as a children.  They probably did.

American Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer as a child

I think having only two students like this in twenty years of thinking is not bad.  Maybe I had two or three others over the years who were borderline, but for whom I still have hope, even after several years have gone by.  I feel horribly depressed about this one student, hearing regularly from others about the things he does that are so bad, but which I cannot even safely mention, and about which no one feels they can do anything.

–Lynne Diligent

Why Teachers Should NOT Treat All Students the Same Way

November 25, 2011

When I first began my teaching career, I made a great effort to be fair with all students by treating them the same way under the same circumstances.  We all want to be fair with students if we are decent human beings as teachers.

However, over many years of teaching (and parenting) I discovered that treating all the same way was not producing the best results.  Over time, my focus changed from concentrating on being “fair” to doing whatever was necessary to bring each student to his highest and best performance in my class.  Furthermore, each student’s best performance was not at the same level as any other student.  This is where teaching becomes an “art” rather than a procedure, or a delivery.

Let’s look at some specific examples.  If students don’t do their homework (math, for example), they arrive in class unprepared to learn from their mistakes in that day’s lesson.  It is not important if they got the right answer in their homework; what is important is whether they attempted the problems and knew at which points they encountered difficulty.  Then they were ready for that day’s work and explanations.

So, how can teachers get students to do their homework (each student’s highest and best effort)?  In my early teaching days, in attempting to be “fair,” I would have given an identical penalty to every student who did not do their homework.  After two decades in the classroom, my approach had changed.  In Grade Three, I put A’s on every paper where the homework was completed (correct or not, although grades were not counted–unknown to the students, but known by their parents) and F’s on any homework undone or uncompleted (again, not counted, as above).  Other than that, I used different incentives for each student.

One student might need a threat–threat of a phone call to a parent, threat of staying in from recess, threat of extra homework.  Another student might need a reward–verbal praise, positive note home from the teacher, getting to be first in line all day long, reading a book while others continue to work.  Still another student might need extra help in class, extra time with the teacher, help from a classmate arranged with the teacher’s blessing, help speaking to a parent.

This is where teaching becomes an art.  In order to know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick, and how much carrot or stick, or which carrot or stick to use, a teacher must know all of his or her students individually, and know them well.  In a normal class of 25-30 students, it takes about two months to know the students this well.

Some teachers don’t want to know their students, and put up a wall.  It’s also harder for younger teachers who are closer in age to the students they teach.  The older one is, the easier it is to get to know students individually without compromising privacy or classroom discipline.  Sometimes older students assume that younger teachers want to be their “friend,” whereas younger students with an older teacher don’t make this assumption even if they do become actual friends at some point.  So the older the teacher is, the easier this is.  Sometimes younger teachers need to erect more of a barrier.

So, how to get to know one’s students?  The first way is through grading their papers, reading their opinions, and by commenting on their papers regarding what they have said.  The second way is through classroom discussions, and by being open and honest with students in classroom discussions, which encourages them to be open and honest with teachers in return.  You both learn about each other.  It’s always easier to do this in primary school than in secondary school.

Regardless, any effort expended in knowing students individually will pay dividends both in personal rewards as well as for knowing what to use to motivate that particular student.  Students who know and respect a teacher will work hard for that teacher as a person.

The reason students must not be treated the same is that some are motivated by carrots, some by sticks, and most by alternate use of various carrots and sticks at different times, and under different circumstances.

–Lynne Diligent

Teaching Conditions Faced by Teachers in the Rural Middle East and North Africa

November 22, 2011

Imagine 46 students per class (with the teacher having 550 different students per week), no chalk, no electrictiy, and no heat in freezing winter conditions.

The current generation of young teachers are often placed in government public schools which are now built in agricultural and mountain regions.  I spoke with one of these teachers, an incredibly dedicated first-year English teacher, who is teaching in one of these schools, and listened to him describe to me the teaching conditions he has to endure.

He teaches in a school without electricity or any sort of heat (and it is winter now with freezing temperatures), and without enough chalk for him to use.  The school finally was able to obtain one box of chalk to use.  When I asked him how long this was supposed to last, he told me the whole year.  I asked him if it might be possible for him to buy additional chalk from  his own pocket (even though he shouldn’t have to).

A rural, public secondary school.

He said that the problem was that as a new teacher, he hadn’t received his salary yet.  When I asked why not, he told me that all the teachers placed in public schools did not receive their salary for the first one-to-two years on the job (although I am assuming that they do eventually get the salary to which they are entitled)!  He said that teachers at private schools do get their monthly salaries upon starting, and that this is just a problem in the public-school sector.  When I asked about salaries, it appears that new teachers in the public sector generally make about $400 a month; whereas veteran teachers of many years usually make about $700 a month.  The top end of the salary scale is around $1,000 a month for the most veteran teachers in the most difficult subjects (possibly math, chemistry, physics).

My next question was, therefore, how was he managing to live, if he wasn’t getting any salary?  I asked if students ever invited him to their homes for meals.  He said no.  He said that he was very fortunate, compared to some teachers, because his parents had actually moved to his new location with him (he’s 25) so that he could live with him and they could support him during his first few years in this job.  (In this country, most new teachers are placed first in rural areas, and after several years of teaching in such conditions, they can apply to come to the city.  But it usually takes many years to actually be able to get to a school in a city.)

School hours are from 8:00 am – 12:00 Noon, and again from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.  This particular teacher is an English teacher in a middle school.  He has 550 students a week.  His classes average 46, and in each class, the age of students ranges from 13-20!  Each of the 550 students spends about two hours a week in his class, once a week.  So each day he has three classes.  One goes from 8:00 am to 10:00 am.  Then he has a ten-minute break.  The next class goes until noon, followed by an hour for lunch.  The third class is from 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm, and another class from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.  He has tried assigning homework, but has so far found that only five or six students out of 550 actually did the homework.  He says that most students take notes, but never open their notebook once they have left class.  The school has no library at all, and twenty classrooms which are equally as crowded as his.  The school has no extra resources even to buy an extra box of chalk for the teachers.

I asked about the sex ratio in his classes.  He said that being a secondary school in a rural area, it’s about 70% boys and 30% girls, but that the girls are far more serious, and study better.  Some of the reasons behind the lower attendance of girls have to do with girls’ labor being needed in the home, as well as it being dangerous and far for the girls to walk to school.  They cannot walk alone (for safety reasons).  The school is 2-3 kilometers from most of their homes.  The older girls get, it is more difficult for families to keep them in school, than it is for boys.

This teacher told me that he started his class year by having only two rules, which he explained to his students.  These are to have RESPECT, and to DREAM BIG.    He talked to the students about respecting themselves, about respecting others, about respecting their teachers, and about what it means to have respect in each of these areas.  Next he talked to them about their dreams.  He tried to encourage them in whatever their dreams were, to take steps toward pursuing them, whether it be becoming a soccer or basketball player, or becoming an artist.  The saddest thing, he said, was that most of them don’t have ANY dreams at ALL.  He said they have been raised in such a way that such thinking and ideas are not encouraged.

A typical public secondary school in a small city.

I told him (speaking as a teacher of many years) that no teacher can hope to be that “special” teacher for everyone, but that every teacher CAN hope and expect to be that “special” teacher for at least some students.  Teachers can change the lives of students by opening up possibilities and giving emotional support.  We discussed it, and he said that while middle-class students are now having dreams, that lower-class students (the majority) are not yet to that level.

As a first-year teacher, he told me that he desires to be a “modern” teacher, using games, songs, and playing.  However, he quickly found this did not work.  “If you have fun with them,” he says, “then they think you are a cool teacher who ‘lets them do whatever they want’ and they don’t respect you.”  He has problems with students getting up out of their chairs out of their chairs without permission, and many students talking in class, disturbing the others.  When he tries to get them to CALM DOWN they don’t want to listen.  These are the same problems I had for many years in my classrooms in this country, although I found getting older (as a teacher) helps!

Interestingly, English teachers in this French-speaking country tend to follow Western models of teaching, and the education departments follow modern methods from America.  They are not being taught in ed school just to have students “memorize” and the like; however, they have the same trouble as foreign teachers do with finding that often more fun and interesting methods don’t seem to work with students who have been raised with different sorts of ideas by their parents, and by the local culture.

This teacher and I live in different parts of our country, and I spoke with him over Skype.  His English was unbelievably good, even compared to other English teachers I have met.  We are a French and Arabic-speaking country (upper classes speaking French, and lower classes speaking the local dialects of Arabic).  It was as good as if he had been raised in England or America, and only had a very slight accent.  He spoke with perfect grammar and pronunciation, and in our two-hour conversation I heard only one slight mistake, which he self-corrected.  I think it’s amazing that someone of this quality is teaching in such a far-off rural school.

I mention this teacher’s good English as a comparison  to my daughter’s experience less than ten years ago in respected private school in a big city in our country.  I went to a presentation for parents in a large auditorium.  The English teacher got up and spoke to parents for five minutes from the stage, explaining what the students were going to do.  Yet, I could barely understand a word!  When my daughter (a native speaker) was in her class, she used to tell my daughter that she wasn’t speaking English correctly (not true).  Since that time, I have found that the English standards of the public-school teachers generally seem quite superior to those of many private-school teachers (although I’m not yet sure why that is).

This teacher’s dedication really impressed me and made me feel as if I wanted to be a student in his class!

–Lynne Diligent

How Mothers Feel!

November 22, 2011

Should Tutors Help Students Who Haven’t Done ANY of Their Own Reading?

November 16, 2011

Sometimes I tutor students who have been allowed to advance to a grade far beyond their reading level.   Special help (other than ordinary private tutors) is not available in my country.   So my problem is how to help these students.

This week I had a student in upper middle school who was supposed to read a book of classic literature written in about 1880.  The student wasn’t able to read the book at all (not even one page).  I taught this student many years ago in an early elementary grade and he was weak then.  He is even weaker now.  This student is now approximately four years advanced beyond his reading level.  There is no question that this boy has a learning disability, but there are no facilities or specialists for testing such things in my country.

When this student left my class five years ago, I told his mother that what he really needed was as much encouragement as possible to stay in school.  Today I see that the student is still interested, motivated, and DOES try in spite of not being able to read anything for the class.

I began by trying to rewrite the classic book as a much simpler story so that I could read it with the student.  It’s quite a long book, so I was only able to rewrite a quarter of the book in a few days.  I finally gave up on the rest (done in my free time for no pay).  I did read through this easier version with the student, and he enjoyed it; however, there were still many common words in English that he did not know, which people who are native speakers might know.

Once we got though what I’d written, we only had an hour to summarize the rest of the book before my student has a test on it in two days.  So I quickly tried to highlight the most important parts of the story and dictated four or five paragraphs of the rest of the story, which my student copied.  He relies on copying things down and trying to memorize them.

Should I do this?  When the student came to me, he was already getting an F.  If he fails, he will drop out of school.  Our school is a high-standard college prep school.  There are no other alternative English-language schools within 300 miles, and those are three times the price of our school, to say nothing of this student not having any family or other support to attend a school far away.  The student cannot switch to a school in another language at this late date.

While I’m sure this student will not make it to college, my objective here is to help this student get his grade up to a C (or higher), to stay in school as long as possible,  and to get as much as possible out of his education.  It’s not ideal, but the student is definitely learning, is still interested, and still positive.  Learning anything is better than learning nothing.

Siobhan Curious, who teaches introductory college literature, wonders how to motivate students who don’t want to read.  This is a similar problem to motivating my students who can’t read.  I think part of the answer is to try to get them excited about the story itself, sometimes even helping them to read it– which gives SOME the incentive to want to read it on their own.

What do others think?

–Lynne Diligent

Santa Grants Students’ Wishes

November 16, 2011

How to Get HBO Programming Ten Years Before Anyone Else

October 23, 2011

What Do Teachers Make?

October 4, 2011

Taylor Mali was at a dinner party.

Another dinner guest said, “The problem with teachers is, ‘What’s a kid going to learn in life from someone who decides his best option in life is to become a teacher?  Those who CAN, DO; and those who CAN’T, TEACH.”

I bite my tongue, instead of his, and resist the urge to remind the other dinner guest that it’s also true what they say about lawyers….because, we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

“I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.  Be honest….what do you make?”

I wish he hadn’t done that.  You see, I have a policy about honesty, which is if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

“You want to know what I make???  I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could!  I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor, and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face!  How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best!  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of Study Hall in ABSOLUTE SILENCE.  ‘You cannot work in groups.  No, you can’t ask a question.  So put your hand down.  Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?  Because you’re BORED, and you don’t really have to go!’  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make parents tremble in FEAR when I call home at around dinner time, ‘This is Mr. Mali….I hope I haven’t called at a bad time….I just wanted to talk to you about something that your son did today…He said (to another kid), ‘Leave the kid alone!   I still cry sometimes, don’t you?’  I said (to the parent), ‘It was the noblest act of courage that I have ever seen!’  I make parents see their children for who they ARE, and who they CAN BE!  You want to know what I MAKE???  I make kids QUESTION; I make them CRITICIZE; I make them APOLOGIZE and MEAN it; I make them write, write, write; and then I make them READ; I make them SPELL–‘definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful’–over and over again, until they will NEVER misspell either one of those words again!  I make them SHOW all their work in math, and then hide it (all their rewrites) in their final drafts in English.  I make them realize that if you’ve got THIS (a brain), then you follow THIS (your heart), and that if somebody tries to judge you based on what you make, then you give them THIS (obscene gesture)!  Let me ‘break it down’ for you.  Let me break it down for you so you know what I say is TRUE.  I make a G* ***m difference!  Now what about YOU?

Taylor Mali is a vocal advocate of teachers and the nobility of teaching, having himself spent nine years in the classroom teaching everything from English and history to math and S.A.T. test preparation. He has performed and lectured for teachers all over the world.

–Posted by (but not written by)  Lynne Diligent