Monday, September 26, 2016

Satire is Tricky

I'm sure many of you have watched Hillary Clinton's bit on Between Two Ferns by now. If you've been under a rock, you can check it out here.

This gif helps to capture a bit of the general feeling of the bit...

What fascinates me about this is not so much Zach Galifianakis, or the fact that she actually did the show, or even anything that she said or did. I'm fascinated by the fact that as many of my die-hard-conservative friends posted this as my oh-so-left-leaning friends. Why would both poles be so apt to share this?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I'm Going to Be the Most Mediocre Teacher I Can Be!

I had a less than stellar moment while teaching yesterday. (Oh, what a good reminder that I am still learning even though I am the teacher!)

It happened in Intro to Education. I was explaining an assignment. My students--freshmen, mostly--are about to undertake their first research project, and I was elaborating the expectations for how to conduct good research, as in, "googling for websites is search, not research." We were talking about the library collection, and Encyclopedias of Education, and reference librarians, and excellent academic resources available online. I closed my explanation with an encouragement to be excellent: "Think about it this way: are you in college to learn? Or to just 'get by?'"

I noticed several students turn to a friend seated next to them and mutter: "I'm trying to just get by..." with a grin.

I did not grin.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Value of Struggle

We are ready for the maze!
(We ambitiously took this picture before getting started.)
My daughter and I recently visited the corn maze at a nearby farm. (Yes, I live in Iowa. This is a thing here...) I had gone with her older brother in past years; this was her first time trying out the maze.

A corn maze is very much what it sounds like: a farmer carves a path through a cornfield, creating a maze among the 8-foot tall cornstalks that are beginning to dry out as we head into fall. This particular place always cuts the maze into an interesting shape that must look very impressive when viewed from the air--this year, the image was a train on a track, engine puffing smoke, with trees and hills in the background.

From our vantage point, of course, it looked more like this:

Our view, traveling through the maze. (Remember too
that I am well over 6 feet tall, and this corn is far taller!)

Before entering the maze, we received a map to help us discern our way, which showed the entrance and exit, and every line on the map indicated the dirt path through the tall corn.

And the fun: hidden throughout the twisting path were six waypoints. At each waypoint, a different shaped hole-punch to record our visit. If we could make our way through the maze and find each of the six punches, we would win a prize! Of course we were up for this challenge!

And so, we plunged in.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Understanding the Common Core

It is amazing and fascinating (and a little troubling) for me to see how people continue to react to the Common Core State Standards. The development of these standards began in 2009--that's seven years ago, people!

The troubling part for me is how politicized the whole conversation about the Common Core is. Many people seem to just be parroting things they have heard--for good or ill--about the standards, about how they are implemented, about the government's role, etc. Many times when I hear people singing the praise of the Common Core, I wonder if they have actually read the standards. Even more common, when I hear people demonizing the Common Core, I really wonder if they have actually read the standards. It seems to me that many people are concerned about the Common Core, or--perhaps more accurately--they are concerned with changes that they see in education today, and they lump any and all changes in with "the Evil Common Core." (Sorry, that was a little snarky, wasn't it?)

Friends, particularly if you are concerned about the Common Core, I encourage you to watch this short video to better understand what the Common Core State Standards actually are. This is a very fair explanation from Education Week (a well-regarded and respectable news source for issues related to American education) and lays out a concise explanation of what these standards are about. I believe this is a helpful way to be able to discern untruths or half-truths you might hear about the Common Core.

If you've ever felt opposed to the Common Core, and you've never actually read the standards, I encourage you to look at them for yourself. You can explore the whole body of the Common Core State Standards at

Are they perfect? Certainly not. But are they a good way of articulating what students should learn at different grade levels in math and English language arts? I think they are helpful in this regard.