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An educated mind is an opened mind. An opened mind is a liberal mind. Teachers don't have to intend to create liberals, it happens naturally.

On the inside:

  • A Professor Speaks
  • Links to other education-related stories.
  • As always, the topics will be whatever you want to discuss.

Door's Open...

A Professor Speaks

Thirty-one years.  That's how long I have been teaching.  It's been four or five days a week, even six days a week, once upon a time, responsible for the welfare of one or more classes of students for somewhere between 50 minutes and 3 and a half hours at a crack.  I teach.

Meanwhile I am also the parent or the mentor, the friend or the coach, the social worker or the therapist, and even sometimes the doctor, depending upon what each of my students requires of me at the particular moment.  And sometimes I am the cop.  At all times it is expected that I will be the protector.

No student has ever been harmed physically by another human being in any of my classes.  I would hope that I could also say that is true as far as emotional damage as well, but I can't know that.  I know I try to protect my students from each other, but I am limited in what I can do.

In 1998 I was plying my trade at the University of Central Arkansas, teaching teachers mathematics and how to teach it.  Shannon Wright, the teacher killed by students at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro (which I wrote about in this piece, which was published in the Ozark Feminist Review) could have been one of my students.  She stepped in front of a 6th-grader and was shot instead of the child.  She could have been one of my students.  She could have been me.

This past Monday, I was being prepped for eye surgery at the moment Jamie Bishop was killed.  And Jocelyne Couture-Nowak. And Kevin Granata.  And Liviu Librescu.  And G. V. Loganathan.  And the students.  They also had names.  They had lives.  But the names I have chosen to single out were at work at the time, plying their craft.  Jamie was teaching German.  Jocelyne may have been giving a pop-quiz in French.  Kevin was probably busy tying the day's engineering lecture into his research interest in biomechanics and the dynamics of cerebral palsy.  G. V. was no doubt expounding about conserving our water resources or bending water to do our will.  We do know for certain exactly what Liviu was doing at the time of his death.  He had ceased his lecturing (was he climbing on the furniture to convey his deep love for his subject?) and was standing at the doorway offering his life in place of that of his students.  I'm sure the others tried to do the same.

Each day we go to work knowing that it could be the day that some student could snap.  College campuses are living communities of folks strung tightly.  College is hard.  It's supposed to be hard.  At many colleges the majority of the students are not going to complete their programs.  Someone has to be the bearer of the bad news.  Guess who that is?  That's right, it's the teachers who grade the papers and projects and the sum total of a student's life.  That's what they pay us to do.  We try to rescue those who are floundering and shepherd those who are  trying to find their way and cheer those who are marching ahead, hopefully supplying them the knowlege and skills they will find useful.  But some of our students will fail, despite our best efforts.  And some of them will react badly.  As teachers we have to be watchful.

But there is another level of danger on our campuses.  The students come being who they are.  Part of our job is to reshape them, refocus them, reinforce the good parts and recognize the bad.  Some people are resistant to change, so there is a degree of confrontation always present, no matter how much teachers try to convince students that we are actually part of the same team and not the enemy.  And some people are damaged by their college experiences.  Some people arrive already damaged.  We do what we can do for these students.  This school has an extra college counselor because we are in the shadow and aftermath of 9/11.  That makes two.  It is not enough.

We know what causes the incidents to happen.  Every single damn one of them was the result of bullying.  Either the young person who committed the attocious acts was a bully or he was someone who was bullied.  If you want these things to stop, you have to stop the bullying.  It started when they were very young.  You cannot just let it pass as part of growing up and expect that these incidents are not going to continue...and probably escalate.

For the love of our children, can't we do this?  In the names of the dead, shouldn't we do this?

Here's the deal.  Each week I locate and skim all the educational diaries so that I may (hopefully correctly) classify them.  I have to do some picking and choosing because some items don't fit what I'm trying to do here.  Then came Virginia Tech.  270 diaries and counting.

I am emotionally incapable of reading them all.  Actually I seem to be an eater of pain, so I probably could, but I'd be seriously deranged for a time after doing so.  I read about 75, the ones which specifically were tagged school shootings.  Some of them were actually concerned that there was a school involved.  Those are in the links below.  Consider the Stories:  Ourselves and Others section to express the broad spectrum of out-pooring from our community, seen through an educational lens.

At the same time, I want to express my own view of some of my favorite other writing about Virginia Tech, if only to gather it in one place.  Those links are included in a special section at the end.

--Robyn Elaine Serven
--Bloomfield College, NJ

Education Round-up:  I've categorized.
Philosophy and PoliticsStories:  Ourselves and OthersFreedom on CampusNCLB/Department of Education/Standardized Testing/Assessment
    None
MoneyAction, Advocacy and InformationVirginia Tech Special Section
I'll be hanging around most of the day, actively waiting for your comments (actually, I'll be working in another program, but I'm close by), so at least one person will be here to discuss whatever anyone wants to discuss.
The Not-so-many Rules
  • No general bashing of administrators, politicians, etc, just on general principles. If you want to bash them, have a point and a plan.
  • No bitching about students unless you're talking about what you are going to do to alleviate the problems you think the students have.
  • Introductions are encouraged, but not essential.
  • I have no investment in hosting the Teacher's Lounge. If someone else thinks they can and wants to do it better, cool.  I just want the space. And not for teachers only, but respecting the general theme of teaching and learning.
  • Teacher's Lounge can be "slow blogging" if you want it to be.  You don't get quality writing if you demand velocity.  It doesn't have to be the case that something posted today is dead by tomorrow. I would like it to eventually be up and active 24/7, but that may have to wait until I have developed an independent blog site.

Every Saturday I'll post a clean slate, around 12 noon EST.

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 08:44 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's not exactly what I set out to write... (29+ / 0-)

    ...but it is what it is.  I put the Jonesboro piece up at Robyn's Perch last night since I think it is too long to be a comment.

    This has been hard.

    Robyn

    Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

    by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 08:39:30 AM PDT

  •  i see an entire system in failure (13+ / 0-)

    there is no safety net anymore for our most vulnerable - for our elderly, our poor, our homeless, our physically and mentally disabled, our ...

    i don't know, i've had students threaten me, i even taught in a locked classroom last year because one of my students was in the middle of a horrible divorce and her soon to be ex was threatening everyone.

    and i've had paranoid schizophrenic students - i know because the policy at the last school i taught at was they had to inform me. one in particular was a wonderful writer, a fabulous student - i've had manic depressives, depressives, developmentally challenged ...

    and at too many schools, there simply aren't the resources anymore.

    my last school was great for exactly these purposes until their brilliant administrator left and they put in her place The Admin from Hell whose idea of success was numbers and a neat and tidy hallway. gone were the days when i could go to admin and say um, something's not right with such and such a student, and i could brainstorm solutions and get background info and etc.

    now, it's about crunching the numbers - well except where i went to after i bailed on my last school - now i'm back to being able to email someone or call them or drop by their office and say i need some help here, what do i do?

    and it's that way everywhere. heaven forbid you should get sick and need hospitalization - there goes your house.

    heaven forbid you should have a sick child - reason for the insurance companies to bounce you.

    heaven forbid you should lose your job which was just paying the bills - you'll quickly find out Wal-Mart greeters make even less.

    things need to change, and quickly.

    •  When I tried to move to Seattle... (9+ / 0-)

      ...after my surgery, no college would take a chance on me.  I got one interview for a faculty position at a community college.  I was overqualified for every other job I sought.  Not even selling teaching supplies.

      I was using cash from my credit cards to pay my credit card bills.

      --Sorry, your comment made me flash on that.--

      Many of our students are barely making it without throwing college in the mix and are stressed out of their minds.  They have children, jobs, family crises.  Some of them have to dodge bullets to catch the bus to the campus.  Occasionally one of them doesn't make it.  

      We have to band together to be a safe space.  We are a small campus and try our damndest to do that.

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:19:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I may try to publish something as a column (8+ / 0-)

    in my local paper, but some things for administrations to think about in trying to understand what happened at Virginia Tech and how to prevent future tragedies of this sort: create a mentor system in which upper-classmen take freshmen under their wings, have lunch with them, offer advice on stuff that only other students are going to be able to empathize with, pick up on warning signs that, for instance, the odd, quiet kid would like to kill everyone in his family. Faculty advisers can't do this because they are traditionally overloaded, and students are lucky to get ten minutes of time to work on future scheduling of classes. We need sane gun laws in this country. That means maximums on the number and type of guns that ordinary folks can purchase. That means required gun-safety/use classes. That means THREE LETTERS OF REFERENCE from outside sources that can be confirmed, from non-relatives who can testify about a person's character and stability. That means licensing, refresher courses, the whole works.

    •  We have a mentorship program here... (7+ / 0-)

      ...but not enough students to make it as effective as it could be.  We have several programs which outreach to students to get them involved with each other.  Unfortunately, our dorms are too old and too small and most of our students commute.

      Too many students don't connect with the community, having a pattern of car, cell-phone, class, cell phone, car, having barely talked to any of their fellow students.

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:24:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I can definitely see the potential (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman, rserven, Faheyman

        impracticalities of the mentor suggestion, and the commuting aspect is definitely one I can see being a real hurdle to overcome. I guess my thought is that a number of students believed Cho was odd, but there is a very basic psychological phenomenon in which people who observe odd, unsettling things as part of a group will often rely on the idea that somebody else will speak up or voice concerns. Maybe real one on one interaction with a student could have changed behavior, or at least gotten it noted early on. I can understand why the department chair didn't have many good options. After all, there are plenty of odd students on any given campus, and kids in creative-writing courses often like to test group comfort levels by being intentionally provocative.

    •  Three letters of reference? (4+ / 0-)

      From other nutcases? (By whose definition?)
      And how about hermits like myself who don't have (or want) three (Republikkklan) "good citizens" as friends?
      A thorough, and I mean thorough, criminal background check should be enough.
      Everything else makes good sense.

      Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

      by world traveler on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:42:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure a background check is enough. (3+ / 0-)

        We're talking about the purchase of something that is specifically designed and intended to kill other people. Home defense is certainly a rational justification for gun ownership, but for folks who are utter loners without three people that can be contacted to say, "No, he isn't a complete nutter," I say, hey, too bad. Buy one of those electric zappers, or learn to wield a sword. The lack of three references is pretty strong support for the idea that maybe we don't want to have somebody wandering around with deadly force.

        •  I'd never say that about anyone (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rserven, Faheyman

          Of course, I'm probably not the best person to discuss this point.  I know that there is darkness in all of us, and I know that, under the right circumstances (which might never occur), that darkness will erupt in some unpleasant way.  My sense is that we're all "partial nutters," and that old British ideal of "muddling through" may be the best many of us can hope for, unless one is a living saint. And the complete nutters can usually find three people, fellow nutters with no criminal records, who'll write a sterling letter for them.  Just too ambiguous for my simple mind.

          I'll roll my rock in front of my cave now.
          Rock-rolling: so simple a Caveman does it.

          Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

          by world traveler on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:45:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  We had a mentor program (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annetteboardman, rserven, Faheyman

      in 1963 at a community college I attended...for a few students, anyway.  I was assigned two girls.  One girl was very savvy and popular and I felt after two meetings that she was coping better than I was. She agreed. :)  

      The other girl who was really beautiful met with me a few times and then told me that people were staring at her and some girl from her high school was talking about her behind her back and saying awful things, etc. I tried to be soothing, but she did scare me. All I could suggest was that she speak with her advisor or our counsellor in student affairs.

      I was 19 and at a loss so I went to the counsellor who had assigned me the student and told her what had been said.  The counsellor frowned at me and said OK as if I was strange.

      The girl stopped taking classes and disappeared.  No one told me anything, but two years later I boarded at a home where she had been staying and heard she had a breakdown and had gone home.  Very sad.  

      I have never forgotten her.  

      "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

      by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:12:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sometimes it is like that with our students. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman, cfk, Faheyman

        One day they go home and never come back.  I try to tell myself it isn't just me.

        Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

        by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:18:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am sure it isn't you (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annetteboardman, rserven, Faheyman

          But I understand the worry since I used to do that all the time...asking myself what I could have done
          differently when I was teaching both day and night school.  

          Then, I said to myself, "Well, at least I taught them as much as I could while they were here and I smiled at them and spoke with them on break."

          Often, I would hear that it was a job problem or they had moved. But I always tried to think of something I could do better next time.

          Many times they came back and tried again. We had a whole wall of graduation pictures of our "troops" in our main office that kept us going.

          "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

          by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:42:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We have a program here... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            annetteboardman, cfk, Faheyman

            ...here we are very proud of:

            The Kellman Course of the Humanities at Bloomfield College provides free college-level classes to low income adult students and gives them an opportunity to study masterpieces in the humanities. Through this experience Kellman students realize the possibilities of educational opportunity, citizenship, social advancement, and personal fulfillment.

            If you click through and look at the pics, Delores Saunders was one of my students.  She's even older than me.

            Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

            by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:48:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  It affects the whole family (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annetteboardman, Faheyman

              top down when adults receive more education.

              Unfortunately, our state under Engler turned its back on those over 20 despite knowing how it lifted up the whole family.  We still have a few, but we don't get paid much and the lower ages have to carry them.

              Congrats on your school's program!!  We had a lady in her late 60's who went on to college.

              "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

              by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:04:31 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That is a great feature! (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annetteboardman, cfk, rserven, Faheyman

              And yes, if there is anyone who needs a bit of hand-holding and mentoring, it's the non-traditional student. People who have been out of school for twenty years are often really terrified of being back in the classroom, because they see the penalties for failure so much more clearly than teenagers do.

      •  That is incredibly sad, but think of it this way, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman, cfk, rserven, Faheyman

        at least the girl can now look back on that time and remember that there was at least one person who was trying to be kind and empathize. Even if she wasn't going to become a serial killer, you may have at least been a bit of brightness in a threatening world for her. I know that sounds hokey, but I have on more than one occasion had people I have no remembrance of wander up to me at restaurants and tell me that I probably don't remember them (and sadly, there's no "probably" about it)but that I did something in class that I have no remembrance of, but which caused some chain of great events to occur. My personal theory is that in reality, my class was so bad that everything that has happened since then has had the illusion of being above average, when in reality they're probably just returning to some standard level of normality, but hey, who knows? I guess it's possible that, in spite of my best efforts, I'm reasonably competent.

        •  I am sure you have planted many (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annetteboardman, rserven, Faheyman

          seeds that you don't get to see blossom.  My husband is a teacher, too, and he tries to notice and talk with all his students about something that interests them.

          Some of the ones he leasts suspects of liking the class come by for a visit or see him downtown and are happy to chat.  

          I am sure you make a real difference in your students' lives!!

          It is tough, but rewarding work.  

          "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

          by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 04:45:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bullying...... (15+ / 0-)

    is preventable, but it needs to be done at an early age.  It's one of the most important lessons we can take from this senseless tragedy.

    What have we come to when teachers deserve hazzard pay for showing up at work?

    Jocelyne Couture-Nowak was Canadian, born in Montreal and very proud of her French Canadian heritage.  She was teaching French when she was killed.  We will miss her.

    The Next Agenda for Progressive Canadian Politics

    by CanadianBill on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:28:30 AM PDT

    •  I can't imagine I can't find something... (7+ / 0-)

      ...on this computer that I wrote about bullying.  I was a victim.  And I was a kid who defended other kids from bullies.  I've started a search to see what I can find. :-)

      Robyn

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:37:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well...... (4+ / 0-)

        I hope you're better organized than I am!  :>)

        The Next Agenda for Progressive Canadian Politics

        by CanadianBill on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:43:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's a world of horrors (4+ / 0-)

        Just read some updates on the heredity/environment debate in clinical psychology.  The current, working numbers are: we become who we are through roughly this mix of influences--genetics, 50% or so; parents, 5% or so (unless there is a particularly traumatic or strengthening event or series of events); peers (friends, enemies one's own age), 45% or so.

        If those numbers hold up through further research, there is the relatively empirical support for your position. Genetics we can't to an awful lot about.  Ditto parents, at least while we're young.  And ditto peers while we're young.  Which leaves very young people in very vulnerable situations.  

        It's up to the adults to secure the environment for the young--always has been, still is. And as our governments (federal, state, local, school principals, etc.) abdicate their responsibilities to protect and nurture our young, the brutish impulses at the core of our natures can forge their way out and devastate our young.

        This is what has happened under the kind and benevolent guidance of Republikkklan Fascist politicians, functionaries, commentators, True Believers, et al. For them, it's more important to pursue the fundamental virtues of avarice, envy, vanity, rage, and power than it is to offer protection, support, and love to our young.

        And I see life for them becoming shorter, poorer, nastier, and more brutish every year. The global physical environment as we have known it appears past saving, by and large.  Our work is to rescue the human environment, for our young, for everyone.

        Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

        by world traveler on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:20:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Very wise words... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          world traveler, CanadianBill

          ...beautifully stated.

          Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

          by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:23:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The whole heredity environment debate is stupid (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TiaRachel, rserven, CanadianBill, Faheyman

          The numbers are, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, 'not even wrong' it's nature nurture nonsense, where, by chance, I use bullying as an example of why these numbers are ridiculous

          Most men worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, we all should worry about our own souls, and other people's bellies - Israel Salanter

          by plf515 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 12:26:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you, Peter. (4+ / 0-)

            On Wednesday we had the good fortune of discussing these sorts of issues with Mary Mahowald, who was on campus to discuss, "Aren't we all in favor of eugenics?"  It was a fascinating discussion which included a discussion of the difference between a disease and a condition.

            Robyn

            Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

            by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 12:53:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Eugenics (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cfk, CanadianBill

              is a loaded word, with multiple definitions that vary not only in denotation but (especially) connotation.

              MWOnline has this short definition:

              a science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed

              using this definition, no, I am not in favor.  Not at all.

              Most men worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, we all should worry about our own souls, and other people's bellies - Israel Salanter

              by plf515 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:03:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That was the point of Mahowald's talk. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                plf515, CanadianBill, Faheyman

                Eugenics has huge problems as a word.  Its original definition from the 1800s involves "improving the stock."  Stock here refers to humans as well as plants and other animals.

                We all practice eugenics when we procreate, in a sense.  Put that at one end of a scale.  Put the Holocaust or Rwanda or or Bosnia or Darfur on the other end.  Where does eliminating Tay-Sachs lay.  Sickle cell syndrome?  

                Where does improving the health of those who are below average in health lie?  Worldwide health.

                Sometimes one has to use unfavorable words to invoke important discussion.  

                Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

                by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:16:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  This gets very tricky to discuss (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  cfk, rserven, CanadianBill

                  and very personal, for me, as my kids are not biologically mine - I am azospermatic.

                  But, when we chose a sperm donor, we did not look for some 'ubermensch', rather, we tried to avoid bad illnesses, and, beyond that, looked for someone similar to me (warts and all)

                  Most men worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, we all should worry about our own souls, and other people's bellies - Israel Salanter

                  by plf515 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:17:26 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  I don't see the refutation (5+ / 0-)

            Yes, the influences will vary.  But I don't see any rejection of the basic assertion that these influences do exist and do result in effects.  Nor do I see a refutation of the proposal that these three factors are the dominant influences to be considered.

            The fact that exact numbers regarding exact amounts of influence aren't readily generated, yet, does not negate the existence of those influences.  (And again, yes, I read the whole diary.) It just means we have a relatively high-level dynamical system for which the equations that would map the (non-linear) interactions would be of such an order of complexity that they are not readily generated, and perhaps are not worth generating.  

            My serious mathematician friends look at the four points of the dynamics of a work of literature, and call it a "discreet dynamical system" that is too complex to map.  There are some things it's just not worth the effort to compute mathematically, they say. How much more complex is the life of a human being. But even though it can't be computed, it is a human life.

            Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

            by world traveler on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:33:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Poem: (6+ / 0-)

              Art Link
              Options
              Fate

              An individual's fate
              consists of the place
              time and circumstances
              that attended birth
              What comes after
              is the result
              of decisions
              myriad choices
              made by everyone
              everywhere
              hosts of checkboxes
              billions and billions
              of option buttons
              an uncountable multitude
              of drop-down boxes
              to select from
              Hardest of all
              are the open-ended
              responses
              Luck is the word we use
              to describe the fact
              that we have no idea
              how the conglomeration
              of these choices
              will affect the lives
              of everyone
              at least most of the time

              --Robyn Elaine Serven
              --April 13, 2006

              Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

              by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 02:39:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I don't fully understand your comment (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              world traveler, rserven, CanadianBill

              but, from what I do understand, I think you failed to understand my diary....I apologize for not being clear

              The point of my diary was that ANY precise statement "Trait X is XXX % due to heredity and YYY % due to environment" is inherently wrong, because it is wrong to interpret main effects when there is an interaction, and there is ALWAYS (or nearly always) an interaction.  There certainly is an interaction when the trait is as complex as bullying.

              One CAN say that both heredity and environment play a role.  One cannot say much more than that

              Most men worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, we all should worry about our own souls, and other people's bellies - Israel Salanter

              by plf515 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 03:09:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Far be it from me to defend psychology (5+ / 0-)

                I recognize a "soft" science when I see one.  The position I see them presenting [for one reference: Steven Pinker, Blank Slate] is that, as I wrote, these elements are "more or less" the defining elements of influence on the development of a person's personality. There may be others, such as the amount of lead paint ingested at age four, but those are statistically small in the aggregate of all  human lives. In talking with a couple of clinical psychologists (one my department Chair), they indicated that what Pinker et al. adduce was pretty much what they see in clinical practice.

                I get your point, and agree, that there can't be a relatively set, linear relationship among factors. They are quite dynamical. I would also agree with Pinker, et al., that one can go further than simply noting those factors, shrugging, and resigning any further investigation. That way lies darkness.

                We make progress by pushing on, by letting our curiosity impel us toward discovery. My point was that this impulse to discovery (we call it "Research") is yielding results that indicate the different factors have different strengths of influence in a statistically average person (who probably does not exist). Recognizing this differing strength of influence then allows for creating heuristic models that can be tested and assigned the appropriate degree of probability.  That, I think, is what they're doing, over there in psychology, and the results, according to workers in the field, do in fact bear out in practice, and offer them both a way of developing treatment paradigms, and a way of moving forward in understanding what's really going on, on the deeper levels.

                They've got a long way to go, they make their mistakes, and I'd personally more trust Sophocles and Shakespeare than Freud and Adler. But they push on, working toward Understanding, and I'm going to give them much credit for getting as far as they have. They're making credible progress in understanding this wonderful, sorrowful, comical, melancholy, ultimately fatal journey of discovery called a human life.

                Abigail, I'm sure if there is something out there, looking down on us from somewhere else in the Universe, they're wise enough to stay away from us. --Grissom

                by world traveler on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 05:26:40 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I haven't read much Sophocles (5+ / 0-)

                  but Shakespeare knew more about humans and how they function than Skinner, Freud, Jung and Adler combined.

                  Even the immortal bard, though, has trouble in translation.  In one of my favorite books, The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit Melvin Konner tells a marvelous story of being among a tribe in Africa.  Night after night, he heard their stories.  They asked him for one of HIS tribes legends.  He told the story of Hamlet.

                  They didn't get it at all.

                  Why be scared when a ghost appears?
                  What's wrong with the widow marrying the dead man's brother? Who else will care for her?

                  and so on

                  Konner isn't only smart, he's wise.  He knows enough to try hard to avoid the sort of blanket statements that many psychologists are all too fond off.  

                  Most men worry about their own bellies and other people's souls, we all should worry about our own souls, and other people's bellies - Israel Salanter

                  by plf515 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 06:16:33 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  From "I am a Human Being": (8+ / 0-)

      I am a human being.

               When I was a child, I was a crybaby.  I was very sensitive to personal slights, perhaps overly so, but that depends on one's point of view.  Did I deserve to be punished for that?  Because punishment is what happens  when adults stand by and let some kids pick on other kids because "it is for their own good," justifying their inaction by saying, "Boys will be boys."  Some children enjoy the role of bully too much for us to stand by and do nothing.  Surely the school-shootings in the past few years have taught us that.  But more important, no child deserves to be picked on because they are emotional.  The world needs sensitive people.  Why do we allow that to be stomped out of children?  Being sensitive is a good thing.  For that matter, no child deserves to be picked on for any reason, like that they wear glasses or are large or small.  Children should be safe from torture at the hands of bullies.  The safety of our children should be everyone's concern.  Safety is a basic human right.

      I am a human being.

      I am a teacher.  I have chosen to spend my life trying to improve the minds of young adults.  That task is made a lot more difficult when some of them are told that they aren't worth as much as the others, that their value to society is determined by the color of their skin or their cultural heritage or their gender or their sexual orientation or     their size or their social or economic status or anything other than how they can develop their minds and their individual talents and how thoroughly they carry out their obligations.  Judging them on any other basis is unfair.  And I believe that fairness is a basic human value.

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:01:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My first comment in Teacher's Lounge... (8+ / 0-)

    ... although I have lurked on occasion.  I appreciate you taking time every week to weave the narrative, helping those who choose to see that every life form on this planet is interconnected and the actions of and reactions from those life forms are also interconnected. Thank you.

    / Makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands. -- Marvin Gaye /

    by Sagittarius on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:44:56 AM PDT

  •  Welcome back, plus a local conection... (5+ / 0-)

    ...to the VA Tech tragedy.

    Hope your eyesight continues to improve.  As to your diary: yes, bullying--absolutely--but with society's sick culture of violence and gun availability as added "accellerants."

    One of the girls murdered graduated from my son's high school two years ago.  His 18th birthday was Monday, and he graduates in June.

    Needless to say, it was an April 16th he and we will long remember--sadly, for more than it being his birthday.

    Peace to all.

    "If I don't see you no more in this world, I'll see you in the next world...and don't be late!" (Jimi Hendrix)

    by Faheyman on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 09:52:28 AM PDT

    •  He will remember it more because it is birthday. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CanadianBill, Faheyman

      That's for sure.  You all will.  

      {{{HUG}}}

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:04:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the hug, plus I want to thank you... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rserven, CanadianBill

        ...for this diary, because it inspired me to do something I haven't found a way to do until today.

        My brother-in-law is married to a beautiful Korean woman, and their daughter (our niece, of course) is a beautiful Korean/Irish-American woman with a Masters Degree in Special Ed.

        Not until reading this post did I know how to reach out to them, becasue I didn't want to cause them any more pain than they already feel.  But I just did so, and my e-mail to them is below. (It refers to an e-mail I sent around earlier this week about the local girl who died at Tech.)

        Thanks so much for your diaries, especially this one.

        Hey Gene and K.C., hope all is well.

        I didn't include you on this the other night because I didn't want to upset anybody.  But I want you all to know that absolutely no one around here even thinks of blaming any Koreans because of what happened this week.  In fact, everyone I've spoken to feels total pain and sympathy for the guy's parents, sister and the rest of his family.

        All I can say is we don't do enough to intervene early, aggressively and careingly with kids who have psychological or mental/brain chemistry problems.  Plus there are far too many guns in this country, and it's far to easy to buy one--especially here in Virginia.

        Love to all, be well and stay in touch.

        Tommy
        (Celesta is out but I'm sure she will follow up later.)

        "If I don't see you no more in this world, I'll see you in the next world...and don't be late!" (Jimi Hendrix)

        by Faheyman on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:19:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  graet diary r (5+ / 0-)

    I've had little time at DKos lately and have to be more choosy with what I read. I'm glad I stopped in this morning - this one ranks with your best. I wish everyone at this site could read it.

  •  Hey - You tricked me (3+ / 0-)

    (sort of)

    Robyn,

    I don't know if others have similar difficulty or have commented on it - but I sometimes don't read the colored text in your colored blocks because I find it rather hard on my eyes.

    ````
    peace

    •  I understand. (5+ / 0-)

      Since I became aware I was losing my vision in the 1990s, I became much more conscious of the range of vision proficiencies people have.  I can assure you that black letters on white is not the easiest thing for some of us to read.  We make do, most of the time.  :-)

      But I use what I do because I can see it when I am in editing mode.  It's a trade off, because it also means the letters are smaller.

      I hope in the future, my eyes will return to a point where I won't need the extra help.  But I'll still probably remember those who do.

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:45:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I switched to the Firefox browser (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peace voter, rserven

      for just that problem. In Firefox, Ctl+ (that's the Control key and plus key) enlarges text. I often do it twice. Page layout can get a little strange, but text is readable. Ctl- takes it back down.

      I will go into debt to support a candidate whose campaign gives out compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of buttons.

      by grayday101 on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 12:23:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You Snitch You Die (5+ / 0-)

    At least that is the motto in the gangs in our area.  The students think that telling administration or security that they are misbehaving is 'snitching' instead of doing our jobs as teachers.

    Last week, after writing up two students for disrupting class and calling security about other kids outside disrupting our class, I actually had a student say "if you guys keep it up, that's the kind of thing that will get a teacher killed".  I know they were half joking, but only half.  We told them that at this point with the school shootings at VT, any threat would be taken seriously, so be careful about any threatened violence.

    I don't think they care, they live and die by keeping their secrets and the code of violence.

    Trust in God, all others bring data.

    by Mlle L on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:47:43 AM PDT

    •  Students can bring whole new meaning... (4+ / 0-)

      ...to "disgruntled" sometimes.  I'm sure there also some teachers who can do that.  I've rarely had to have a student removed from class, but I have told some to leave.  I've told some of them they should see if they can get to the registrar to drop the class before I get there and had to do something.

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 10:53:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Beautiful diary, Robyn (6+ / 0-)

    No time to stay and talk today, but your title caught my eye and I had to read it.

    I also liked your piece on bullies excerpted in the comments above.

    Suggestion on your glasses, if I understand what you said in a comment: could you have your old lens replaced with a plain one so you could still use the glasses? One of those "one-hour glasses" places could probably do it pretty cheaply.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing. I like your writing. Maybe sometime I will get over my shyness enough to share some of mine.

  •  I tried at night school to create a safe place (8+ / 0-)

    both mentally and physcially. I worked so hard on building community. I had students on tethers and some on study release who went back to jail at night.  

    There are some projects to do to build teamwork and that was important for them to have for work skills, too.

    I never knew when I might have to break up a fight...only four times in 17 years, luckily.  

    I had students with scars from bad teachers who had humiliated them as well as those who had been bullied by classmates for being different.  I had a lot of creative students...artists, musicians.

    Our night students could just up and drop us at will so we worked hard to encourage them to stay.
    Sometimes when we held our graduation ceremonies, I would feel that I had personally wrestled a student onto the stage.  The night of graduation was the best night of my life every year.

    Young men would come into class on the first night wearing a ball cap and keeping their heads down so I couldn't see their faces.  After a couple of nights, the heads would come up so I could see eyes and then after a bit the hat would come off and be put aside.  

    Almost every student who refused to read aloud at the beginning of term was willing to try by the end.  We had eight week terms of two nights per subject with three and a half hours of class each night.

    After Columbine, I made it a rule to speak about how to leave class if there was trouble at our door.

    That broke my heart.  Some students would say that they wouldn't leave me, but I would insist that the best thing they could ever do for me would be to get out FAST.  It was always a grim note to class.

    My heart goes out to all who teach and have to be afraid for their students.  I am retired, but I remember.

    "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

    by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:33:39 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for writing this, cfk. (5+ / 0-)

      I am honored that you chose to publish it here.

      Robyn

      Teacher's Lounge opens every Saturday between 11 am and noon. It's not just for teachers.

      by rserven on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:36:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  One teamworking project that was so much fun (4+ / 0-)

        was to give each team a sheet of paper, some scissors, and a few pieces of tape and ask them to create something that would hold up textbooks at least an inch off the table.

        I remember we managed to pile huge stacks of books on the winning structure and ran out of books to pile on.  The students loved it and were so proud of each other.  You could feel the difference in the classroom atmosphere.

        I don't know if I should tell the answer or leave you all to try it, yourself.  :)

        "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

        by cfk on Sat Apr 21, 2007 at 01:47:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I didn't see in your list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rserven

    the absolutely spectacular diary by mapantsula.

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