Category Archives: Education

Language 

  
One thing I admire most in this world is the ability to be multilingual. Obviously I am a native English speaker, who speaks a dialect from the region of south Alabama. Most people would associate my accent/dialect with that of the Southeastern United States, but many southerners can tell certain distinctions in pronunciations and regions. People have always told me that I have a nice southern accent. It was interesting to me when I was up north for my recent interview to talk to my very cute and sexy taxi driver, because he made a very interesting remark. He asked me where I was from, and I said Alabama. He said, “I knew you weren’t from here because you pronounce your words so clearly.” I told him I don’t think a southerner has ever been told they speak more clearly than anyone else. We tend to be told that we drop certain consonants and even syllables or add extra vowels. It’s nice to know I speak clearly and am easy to understand especially since that would be a major component of my job up there.

However, back to being multilingual, I can speak a little Spanish and very little Italian and French, the last two just enough to say I don’t speak the language and to order food. With Spanish I am able to read the language to a certain extent though I need a dictionary for more than just a summary translation. I’m sure with Spanish, I probably could with a lot of work and usage be able to speak it functionally but I rarely use it. The same might be true of Italian because it is very similar, but I always had a major problem with learning French. However, if I am around someone speaking any of these three languages enough, I can get a basic understanding of what is being said, though not a word for word translation nor can I effectively respond in that language. 

Languages and linguistics have always fascinated me. When I studied African history, I was always interested in how historians used linguistics to determine migration patterns, especially of the Bantu people.. The same is true with Native American history, such as how the Iroquois of New York and Canada have a similar language to the Cherokee of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Similar enough in fact that the Tuscarora broke from the Cherokee and became part of the Iroquois. No one really knows how the two can have such a similar language but be geographically disconnected from each other, but they both belong to the Algonquin language family while the Native Americans surrounding the Cherokee belong largely to the Muskogean language family.  

I would love to have the intelligence to be able to study linguistics. The origins of language, historical linguistics, and anthropological linguistics fascinate me, but I have never been able to catch on to different languages. Some people have the unique ability to easily pick up languages and young children have a remarkable ability to absorb different languages more easily, but as we get older our brains can no longer do so as easily. I have always found it sad that Americans are so xenophobic to languages other than English. More than half of the United States was once Spanish speaking, a fourth was French speaking, and all of it was made up of thousands of different languages before Europeans arrived, but the eastern seaboard and the English colonies that became the United States came to dominate and require English as the only language, even though the United States has no official language.

English speaking Americans, and this time I do include Canadians, forced assimilation on non-English speakers to learn the English language. The Canadians failed with Quebec, and French and English became the official languages of Canada, but the United States was largely successful (except in Louisiana which has retained French, Cajun, and English), though English is still most widely spoken This assimilation campaign led to the extinction of many Native languages and the loss of immigrants retaining their language but not until the languages of non-English speakers influenced and infiltrated American English enough to make it a very distinct dialect from that of British English. 

Many countries require that children from the time they begin school to learn a second language. In many countries that second language is English because English has become the lingua franca of business around the globe. Americans use this as an excuse to not require students to be bilingual, which I find a shame and a disgrace to the American education system. There is no reason that we cannot begin in preschool or kindergarten teaching students a second language, when they are still young enough to learn another language easily. 

I sort of got on a rant here, but I had begun thinking about this as I was reading about the Basque language, which has no known ancestral language. This is known as a language isolate. Only a few such languages are spoken by a significant population, Basque is the second largest language isolate, Korean is the largest language isolate with more speakers (80 million) which is more than all other speakers of a language isolate combined. As I was thinking about this, I began to think how much I admire people who can easily pick up a language. Science fiction, with its alien races, always has linguistics experts, or a “universal translator,” the cheat sheet for linguistics. On Stargate, there was Daniel Jackson who seemed to know every ancient language on Earth. In the Star Trek universe, Hoshi was a language expert on Enterprise, while in the new reboot of Star Trek, Uhura is a linguistics expert, but was merely a communications officer in the original Star Trek. 

I love being a historian, but I greatly admire linguists. I think if more people understood the science of linguistics, then I think more people would want to know more than one language. It always angers me when xenophobic Americans refuse to even think about learning another language. These same people do not want to visit other countries or learn about other cultures. It reminds me of the Chinese of the Middle Ages who sent out explorers only to return and say that China was far superior and nothing worth knowing existed outside of China. Knowledge is power, and knowledge of languages is even more powerful.

I know this was an off the wall post, but sometimes I just like writing what’s on my mind and this was on my mind last night.


When One Door Closes…

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Alexander Graham Bell has been famously quoted as saying, “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

Several people have related this quote to me over the past few months since losing my teaching job as words of encouragement. I’ve taken it to heart and I can see the door that is open for me, but I need your help to enter that door, and this is not an easy thing for me to do. I never thought I would be jobless at this stage in my life. I’ve had a distinguished teaching career, and I have worked incredibly hard for everything that I’ve achieved. Yet, back in May, I saw the rug pulled out from under me. I’m now facing a hallway with many doors, and while those doors may scare me, I will persevere.

I’ve tried to open several of the doors and some remain shut, as I send out application after application, so far I have only received rejections. I am either over qualified or under qualified, but there is nothing in the middle. I have a possible job for the fall. It’s substitute teaching, and though I’ve done it before, I’d rather not do it again, but if no other opportunities present themselves, I will become a substitute teacher again. It might be bearable, if I knew I was doing something that would help my career.

When I began college, I was a history major, and I loved educating people and spreading my love for history. I received my BA and MA in history as well as pursued further graduate studies in history (for a variety of reason, some beyond my control, I was unable to finish my doctorate in history). For the past five years I taught world and American history, government, economics, civics, geography, and English to high school and middle school students. Recently, I lost my job to unforeseen circumstances, which has made me reevaluate my life goals. I want to educate people in innovative ways, and with your help, I can achieve this goal in two ways.

First, I love to teach, but I want to take that avenue and change its direction to make it more accessible. Therefore, I would like to focus on museums and the educational opportunities they can provide, but to do that I need to gain some educational credits in museum studies. I am currently volunteering at a museum and archive to gain experience, but the key word there is volunteering. I am doing this at my own expense while currently unemployed, but I hope it shows that I am willing to do what needs to be done to better my situation. If I am unable to secure a community college job or a paying job at a museum, then I would like to pursue a Certificate in Museum Studies. This would add the educational background I need to my studies in history, which have included courses in public history. Because certificate programs are not degree programs, they are ineligible for federal financial aid and the expenses would come out of my pocket. With your help (and if you can’t help but know someone who can), I will not have to cash in my life insurance policy to pay the expense of the program.

Second, many people have encouraged me to become a writer, not just of history but of fiction. I think fiction is a great way to get history to the mass public, as long as a book is well researched. Fiction writing can help change the world, but I need financial support to make that happen. I have already written a good portion of a first draft to a novel, and I have received positive feedback, but it still needs more polishing. I want to get my writing career off the ground, but I need financial support to make that happen, which means I need help covering the expenses associated with printing copies, mailing manuscripts to publishers, and editing. I have a few book ideas, and I want this to become an extra career, or if by some miracle, I’m better at it than I think, a primary career.

I am asking that you help me make this world a better educated world. Allow me to pursue a museum studies program and to explore the world of fiction writing. Your help would be tremendously appreciated. I do not ask this lightly. Some of you have donated through this blog in the past, and I can’t thank you enough. It has always come when it was most needed. I don’t know how you knew that, but each of you is truly amazing.

Also, as you may know, GoFundMe is not anonymous for the person asking for funding. GoFundMe has you use your real name and a real picture of you. This scares me the most, because I’ve always been anonymous with this blog. By giving a link to my GoFundMe site, I am no longer anonymous; however, with no job and it’s doubtful my family would find this blog, I have nothing much to lose at this point. So I’m asking for your help. Please don’t make me lose my anonymity in vain. I know not everyone can contribute, and any amount of your generosity would be greatly appreciated.

http://www.gofundme.com/z837bk


A Valadictory Address Censored

  

As a teacher and someone who has dealt with graduation speeches before, I’m not sure what to think about the story of a Colorado charter school who refused to let a class valedictorian, Evan Young, deliver a graduation speech in which he planned to come out as gay. I read the the statement of the school, but yet, I also know firsthand that school’s do lie. However, I have not read the students speech and therefore cannot compare the two.

 Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Longmont claims that the speech would have been disruptive and the first draft also included ridiculing comments about faculty and students and was condescending toward the school. School attorney Barry Arrington said in the statement that a graduation speech is not the time for a student to “push his personal agenda on a captive audience.”. They also claim that he didn’t follow the dress code for the ceremony by removing the sleeves of his graduation gown. Evan, who is 18, said he agreed to make suggested changes to the speech he planned to deliver on May 16 at the commencement ceremony for Twin Peaks. But he refused to remove the disclosure about his sexuality.

“My main theme is that you’re supposed to be respectful of people, even if you don’t agree with them. I figured my gayness would be a very good way to address that,” he said. He and his father, Don Young, said they weren’t notified until just a few minutes before the ceremony that Evan wouldn’t be allowed to speak or be recognized as valedictorian. This is where I think the school made a misstep. Whether they allowed Evan to give his speech or not, it is inappropriate not to recognize the valedictorian, especially if they continued to recognize the achievements of other students. Evan Young said he previously emailed a speech with other suggested changes to school officials, but they contend that he didn’t submit a revised version.

Before the ceremony, Don Young said school principal PJ Buchmann called and said the speech was a problem because his son had mentioned another student’s name and planned to come out as gay. If this is the case, then the school is making excuses beyond Evan’s disclosure of his sexuality, but are really only bothered by him coming out in his speech. They could have simply told the Evan that the entire theme of the speech was inappropriate and that he could not mention another student by name. I’ve known quite a number of valedictorians in my lifetime, I was one myself, and all of the ones I have known made speeches of encouragement. If the theme is what Evan said it was, then it was an appropriate theme, and his disclosure of his sexuality should not have been an issue.

In my opinion (and Evan is probably a little at fault, but he’s also young), the school handled this situation in the worst way possible. The speech should have been prepared weeks in advance and Evan and the faculty should have had plenty of time to revise it. However, it appears that the school chose to wait until the last minute, so that they would not receive negative publicity that might have forced their hand in allowing Evan to give his speech. Don Young said he and his wife didn’t know their son was gay. They were initially sympathetic to Buchman’s objections to the speech, considering there would be young children at the event, but did not like how Buchman handled the matter.

I have to agree with the Young’s. No matter the school’s reservations about he speech, they handled this in an underhanded way that deprived a young man of the honors that he no doubt worked very hard to achieve.


Hallelujah 

  

I gave my final exam yesterday.  The kids are gone.  There is a little more paperwork to do today, and I have to attend graduation tonight.  Other than that, school is out for the summer.  I am so happy, and for the next few weeks, I’m going to spend as much time with my boyfriend as possible since he will be out of town most of the summer.  I am going to miss him so much.

By the way, my headache finally subsided.  Hopefully, it will continue to get better.


Short Post

   

This will be a short post.  Last night I had one of the worst headaches I’ve had in months.  Medicine and sleep didn’t phase it all day yesterday.  I’m hoping it will be better today.

The good news is that I am giving my last exam today.  If they all pass the class, I will have no more students until August 12.  I still have a teacher workday tomorrow, but that’s just taking care of some administrative loose ends.  I am so glad that this year is over.  I’ve had some of the worst students I’ve ever dealt with this year, and luckily, most of them are graduating tomorrow night.


Omar Currie: A Story of Courage

Three weeks ago, Omar Currie, a 25 year-old third grade teacher at Efland-Cheeks Elementary School in Efland, North Carolina, overheard some of his students calling one of their male classmates “gay” and “a woman.” Instead of sending the bullies to the principal’s office, Currie took a different approach: He read his class King & King, a children’s fable by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland that features a same-sex romance.

Currie, who identifies as gay, said that he wanted to have an honest conversation with his students — whom he affectionately refers to as his “kids” — on how to treat people who may seem different.  Sometimes the best approach to dealing with our “kids,” as I also refer to my students, is to give them a different perspective and a new way of looking at things.  I often play devils advocate with my kids when an issue of ignorance comes up in my classroom, but I deal with teenagers not third graders.  My kids have realized that I’m the school’s liberal, and they are learning what provokes my sermons about their ignorance.  I try to be diplomatic at times, but often I end up getting angry, because I think they should have learned this much younger, which is why I find Mr. Currie such an inspiration.

According to Currie, there was a group of boys that had been referring to the child as a girl or a woman, saying “OK, woman,” or “OK, girl.”. He stepped in and addressed the issue, he said, but then it happened again. It was obvious that this particular child was being bullied and was very upset.  To address the issue, the following day, Currie read his class King & King, a picture book whose main character, a prince, must find a suitor to marry. After meeting with a succession of princesses and feeling no spark, the prince eventually falls in love with another prince. The two wed, becoming kings together, and the book ends with the two kings kissing.

When one student said that it made them uncomfortable, because they’d never seen two men marry each other, Currie said: “Well, it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you feel something new, but what is the moral? The moral is to treat people well, no matter who they are.”

Currie’s decision was not without controversy. At least three parents filed formal complaints against him, leading to a meeting at the school last Friday to determine whether the book would be banned. About 200 people showed up to the meeting, with the majority of community members supporting Currie’s decision.  “The experience was very overwhelming in terms of the amount of support I received,” he said.

However, a number of parents said they were dismayed to find out that Currie had read King & King to his students.  “[You’re] infiltrating young minds, indoctrinating children into a gay agenda and actively promoting homosexuality to steer our children in that direction,” parent Lisa Baptist said at Friday’s meeting, according to WRAL.

“The comments that were most difficult were the ones from parents and community members saying that my kids can’t handle this conversation,” said Currie. “These people are underestimating my kids. I know what they’re capable of, how intelligent they are and how passionate they are. To say my kids couldn’t have a conversation about bullying was very disgusting to me, quite honestly.”

Currie said he knows all too well the pains of being bullied at school. He said the classroom should be a safe environment for all children.  “Every single day in middle school I was called a faggot,” he said. “I was called that in front of teachers and no one ever stopped to address the problem. It gave me an understanding that it must be fixed immediately when it happens.”  I think many of us faced similar circumstances.  Middle school and high school were hell to me.  I turned to my books and studies harder hoping to get far away as soon as I could, and education was going to be my ticket out.

The school board committee ultimately determined that the book would not be banned, but that in the future, teachers must inform parents about every book they plan to read for their class. I think the school board’s decision is one of the most ludicrous I’ve heard of in a long time.  Why should a teacher have to inform parents of every book they read their kids.  It just adds more work to already overworked and under appreciated teachers.  Currie said he disagrees with the school board’s decision, but appreciates the love and support he has received.  “Three weeks ago, after I read the book, it was a very lonely experience, because I felt like I was standing by myself,” he said. “On Friday, it wasn’t just me standing up for what was right, it was all of us. That was powerful.”

I wish all teachers cared about their kids the way Currie does, and I wish I were brave enough to be able to do the same thing if I were in his situation.  However, while teaching at a small private school may afford me great freedom in the classroom, it also keeps me in the closet and forced to deal with the politics of a small minded community.  Teachers like myself have to work with what we have and change minds in small incremental ways.  It’s a slow process, but I do see minds changing, if ever so slightly.


The End Is Nigh

No, I’m not predicting the apocalypse, but two other things are coming to an end this week.  One good; one bad.  The good news is that school ends on Thursday.  Monday is our last full day, and the rest of the week consist of half days for exams.  I’m so excited.  This has been one of the rougher school years, and I can’t wait for it to be over.  However, my week with my boyfriend as I house sit is also coming to an end.  The owners of the house come back on Wednesday.  I will miss sharing a bed with my boyfriend at night.   So this week will be one of hose weeks where it’s out with the bad, but also out with the good.  However, I do have a vacation coming up in a few weeks with my boyfriend that should be quite wonderful.

I hope you all have a wonderful week.


Long Day

 As many of you know, I wrote my posts the night ahead and schedule them for 7 am each morning.  If ever they don’t post at 7 am, then something didn’t work the way it was supposed to work.  As I was writing this at 8:15 pm, last night, I just got home from a 12 hour day at work.  Anyone who rethinks teachers are finished at 3 pm everyday are sadly mistaken.  We often bring home work, or have school functions we must attend.  I love about 40 minutes from work, so when we have a function at night, it’s not worth it to drive home, so I spent the time catching up on a few things.

By the time I got home and dealt with my crazy family for a few minutes, I am dead tired, have a headache and am going to bed early.  I’m just ready for Saturday morning because I have a all day long date with my boyfriend.  I can’t wait.  I haven’t gotten to see him since last Sunday, but we will get to spend next week together.


Time Management 

 
Sorry y’all, I got so wrapped up in a project for school that when I finished, I realized it was far too late to write the post I had planned.  I also had a headache yesterday which didn’t exactly motivate me to come up with an alternate topic. 

I know exactly what caused yesterday’s headache.  I was outside yesterday with some of my classes, and it was so hot, that I got a tad overheated.  If I ever get too hot, especially when the sun is very bright, I never fail to get a headache.


My Life in a Cartoon Strip

  

At least that sums up my life in academia right now.  However, I do ask that you guys pray for me (or send good vibes my way), because I’ve applied to several jobs teaching college for next fall in Iowa, Virginia, and South Carolina.  Hopefully, I’ll get a few more submitted.  So far I haven’t heard from any of the jobs I’ve applied for this year, but I’m still hoping.  I’m not sure my sanity (what very little is left of it) can survive another year of teaching high school.

By the way, just for some eye candy, if you have not seen this hot math professor from England, then it’s time that you did.  He happens to be a model, as well as holds a PhD in mechanical engineering.  Here’s one of his modeling pictures.

  


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