Friday, May 6, 2011

'Preciate You: Honoring Teachers in My District

A few weeks ago I sent an email to some teachers in my district and requested input about the ways teachers support education. I made the request after receiving an email critical of teachers who don't protest openly with signs during organized gatherings.

My colleagues read into my email a different meaning. In honor of them and Teacher Appreciation Week, I'm posting their responses. Some asked for anonymity, and others signed their names.

English teachers do more than feed students a diet of wonderful literature, as a colleague in another school shares:

I have many high school kids that don't have enough money for food, so I buy snacks for them, such that they can concentrate in class.  These kids have a lot of pride, so I tell them to go to my snack drawer whenever they're hungry.  They usually go when I'm not around.  Several of them don't have any support at home.  I spend $10.00-20.00 a week on them; this cost is above the normal classroom supply necessities.” (anonymous)

The following is from a colleague in my building. I had no idea the extent to which he goes to support students. John is retiring at the end of the year, and I will miss him in so many ways. He is among the most humble people I know.

I am Idaho High School Counselor of the Year. I have worked way beyond my regular hours each day helping hundreds of students.  Among scores of other students this year, I have especially helped one young  handicapped man. I have gone to his house to deliver assignments, collect assignments, offer support and proctor exams. I do my visits on weekends and after school and rarely during school hours as I am too busy during the regular day with other students. I hope that this promotes the education of this one particular handicapped student.

In addition to this sort of thing, I donate monthly to the Highland Foundation.  This money is used for a myriad of activities and programs.  I also give to the IEA Children's Fund which is used throughout the state for everything from clothing for underprivileged  kids to educational assistive technology.

I hate "tooting my own horn" but I feel that this needs to be done so that our government officials don't continue to think that they are doing something new to "Put Students First." Educators have been doing this throughout the history of education.
Thank you,
John D. Howe

Andrew teaches down the hall from me. I love that he brings his students to my classroom to sing Christmas carols in Chinese each year. I had no idea our school hasn't provided the resources he needs for his language classes.

I believe strongly in teaching Chinese at the high school level.  I worked with the principal of Highland High School to get a Chinese program approved, and I agreed to teach the classes.  The district didn’t have the money to buy textbooks, so I have had to use lessons that I created myself from scratch.  It has been a lot of work to make sure I cover all of the state standards in my lessons, and I have had to work many extra hours during school vacations and weekends to get these lessons ready.  Everything I have used in my classes has been created or purchased by myself, yet my students have been quite successful in learning Chinese.  I volunteered to work for a week last summer getting Total Instructional Alignment documents ready to standardize how foreign language is taught in Idaho.  I also spend several weeks every summer on professional development training so that I can be a better teacher.  Many of these activities are outside the requirements of my teaching contract, but I do them because I know my students deserve the best.

Andrew Lake
Highland High School

Not only is Mrs. Graham a generous teacher but she also has fantastic children whom I throughly enjoyed having in my class.

Mrs. Funk,
I teach third grade at Ellis Elementary. You taught both of my daughters at Highland (Sarah and Kelsey Graham). About 6 weeks ago, we had an animal research report due. We did much of the research and the technology portion (Inspiration Web and computer generated picture with facts) in class. We sent the report home to be polished up. The students had to bring back the finished project to be graded with a rubric. I had two students who did not meet the deadline; either because they forgot, procrastinated or did not get much support from home ( a combination really). I went to both of their homes that evening to pick up their reports after visiting with their moms. It was pouring rain and I went after working at my second job. Needless to say, this past week, another large project was due (Water Cycle Model). Both students who didn't make the deadline on the research report were both prepared to explain their model of the Water Cycle. I think they know I will come to their house if they forget--and I will!! I love to teach. I have clear expectations for all students. Just wanted to share.
MaryLynn Graham

I'm learning that if you want to know who really knows what goes on in a school, talk to a counselor, as the following comments show:

As a school counselor, I continuously see teachers and staff assisting students by going out of their way to help ensure that students have adequate food, clothing, and a safe place to be at night.

Teachers bring clothes, shoes, coats etc. to school for students who do not have adequate attire.  I even know of a situation where a teacher anonymously purchased underwear for a student who confided in her that she only had two pair.  Many of the teachers I work with have food stores in their rooms for kids who do not consistently have enough food.  I'm not a teacher, but as a school counselor, another staff member and I got permission and took a student home yesterday to make sure she was safe due to a situation that occurred between the student and her father.

Hope that helps!
Tonianne Wood :)

A common thread echos in the lives of teachers: We have stories about the special teachers in our lives, like the sixth grade teacher who spent time on weekends with my brother after our father died. This was when Steve was in seventh grade.

For me that special teacher is Nydia May Jenkins, my high school speech and debate coach who later said she wouldn't "give a plugged nickle" for me when I began competing but "wouldn't trade for anything" by the time I graduated. Her tutelage meant I attended college on speech and debate scholarships. She use to come to my house and pick me up at 6:00 a.m. so I wouldn't have to walk to school on tournament days.

Miss J. attended my father's funeral when I was a junior in high school and guided me through some very difficult times during my adolescence. She's my muse and my inspiration for remaining in a profession that doesn't get much real appreciation these days.

Teachers near and far, in the words of my college debate coach, Dr. Robert Derryberry: 'Preciate You!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rhetoric and the Teachable Moment: "Remarks by the President on Osama Bin Laden"

Teachers love the "teachable moment." President Obama's speech announcing the death of Osama Bin Laden offered a teachable moment for my speech and English classes, all of which are currently immersed in persuasive speaking/writing units.

Last week we watched a video explaining Aristotle's use of logos, ethos, and pathos, which is available on the Read, Write, Think website. While the video addresses advertising specifically, the definitions also apply to all forms persuasion.

Before watching President Obama's speech, I asked students to draw a triangle on their papers and to label each point with the terms ethos, pathos, logos, and we reviewed the terms.

During their viewing of the speech, students had transcripts that allowed them to follow along as POTUS spoke.

After listening to the speech, students broke into small groups with each taking a protion of the speech to analyze. Each group posted examples of ethos, pathos, and logos on the board and added to their own graphic organizer of the speech.

My background in rhetoric and communication provided an opportunity to discuss the speech as both writing and speaking. I explained to students that President Obama's speech falls into the "special occasion" speech genre.

A brief review of general speaking and writing purposes followed:
  • to inform,
  • to persuade,
  • to narrate,
  • to entertain
My students had no trouble identifying President Obama's purpose to inform Americans about Bin Laden's death, but I wanted them to understand that the President had a larger audience than just Americans in mind, so I asked: "Did President Obama need to give a speech for us to know that Bin Laden was dead?"

Imediately, students understood that the world was listening to the President. I told my classes about my virtual Canadian colleagues who burned the midnight oil to listen to the speech. I reminded them of the world reaction to the 9-11 attacks: "We are all New Yorkers."

This discussion propelled us forward as we talked about purpose: to persuade us to unite as a nation; to convince the global community of the justice in our military action of entering Pakistan to find Osama Bin Laden; to persuade us to remember and honor the victims of 9-11, their families, and the military personnel who have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Obama's speech, I explained, is a form of Apologia, a form of public discourse designed to defend one's actions. Specificaly, President Obama uses the strategy of bolstering:

"Bolstering refers to any rhetorical strategy which reinforces the existence of a fact, sentiment, object or relationship. When he bolsters, a speaker attempts to identify himself with something viewed favorably by tthe audience" ( Ware, B. L. and Wil A. Linkuger. "They Spoke in Defense of Themselves : On the Generic Criticism of Apologia." Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration & Practice ed. Sonja K. Foss).

Another necessary element of apologia is denial. In the President's speech, he explicitly denies any wrongdoing by referencing Bin Laden's declaration of war on the U.S.A. and by noting his promise to enter Pakistan to find Bin Laden.

Thus, the President's address offers an explanation that asks the audience to understand his "motives, actions, beliefs" so as not to condemn him. And it offers a justification that asks for approval as well as understanding.

For a nation who will forever commerate 9-11 both understanding and justification are inherent audience responses, but as one of the greatest orators to take the podium, President Obama knows the world may need a reminder that "We're all New Yorkers."

That's what I love about the teachable moment. I'd love to hear how your teachable moment.