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One reason it was odd is that there were no interruptions or cancellations due to weather - as of now it looks like that trend will be broken at the beginning of next week.

The week started out strong - we were observed by principals and the assistant superintendent for our cluster/region.  Several came into my 2nd period class partway through and stayed about 20-25 minutes.  When they left they had smiles on their faces.  I learned later that week that they told my principal how impressed they were that my classroom had a high degree of higher level thinking questions, that I was patient with my students, that when a student had made a partially correct answer I cycled back to give the student a chance to complete her answer.

But that same day I was taken to the hospital after an episode that is still officially diagnosed as a Transient Ischemic Attack, which it probably was not, but more about that anon.  I was out from Noon Monday until I could return on Wednesday.

But then I was not going to be allowed to teach until Human Resources signed off on my return.  Fortunately, although no one had informed me of that requirement (because who expects that a teacher will leave in an ambulance) I had my discharged paperwork with me, it showed I had no restrictions on activity, I had planning 1st period and I received clearance by phone 5 minutes before 2nd period began.

I got a lot of support from students and from the adults in the school communituy.

Thursday we had a guest speaker - Mary Beth Tinker, one of the appellants in Tinker v Des Moines.  I was told by my Social Studies Department Chair that he had never seen kids respond to a speaker like that -  there were throngs waiting to talk with her afterward.  Her focus was on rights of kids and that they can even as school students make a difference.  A number of them exchanged emails with her.

Also on Thursday I found out that Obama is appointing as #2 in the Department of Education a man whose recent work has been the investment in for profit ventures in "public" education, meaning this administration has now permanently lost me on the issue of my professional life.

I expect to post diaries about Mary Beth Tinker and about the DoE appointment in the very near future.

Some more below the fleur de kos.

About the observation - I rely heavily upon Socratic questioning as a mainstay of my teaching -  I am always seeking deeper thinking.

Of equal importance, I am trying to get my students to learn to complete their thoughts:  listing facts does not an argument make.  What do those facts mean, to what conclusion do they lead for you, and why?  As important as such facts might be, without the completion elements, real learning and understanding is lacking, nor have the students presented anything that is truly persuasive or effective.  If I can help them understand that, and then assist them in learning HOW to complete the process, then I have given them something of far greater importance that a ton of facts that are readily accessible online.

Readily accessible online-  not a week goes by that when  students ask a question I suggest they take out their cell phones and look up the answers.  Regardless of the answer they provide, I ask them what is the source of that answer and how they know it is reliable?  I am trying to equip them to continue to learn on their own without my instruction or guidance.  

I do not change what I am doing when I am observed, formally or informally.  I am used to it.  In my first school, the one year I was inside rather than in an outside temporary, every time the principal had a visitor she would bring them into my room.  My students got used to it there, and in subsequent school settings, so that the presence of observers does not change what is happening.  After all, if it is no big thing to me, then they decide it should not matter to them.  That is in part because i spend time building trust both ways - I make clear that I trust them unless they give me a reason not to.

My favorite class is STEM Policy.  I have a new group of students this semester.  It was from that class that I was taken to  the hospital.  When I saw them on Wednesday I explained in detail what had happened.

We then began the process of their presenting their mini-briefs on policies I had assigned to them (group work).  Several had not followed instruction.  Using questioning I walked them through what had been expected and had them recognize and acknowledge where they had not followed instructions.  I also used questioning to show them - or rather, have them realize - where their thinking was incomplete.  I made clear that no okne's grade was effected.  Everyone was going to get full credit, because this is a learning process.  They are also required to do a reflection on what they learned, including from listening to the presentations of their classmates and how I questioned/challenged the various presentations.  

We finished the presentations yesterday, then I gave them time in class to write their reflections, which I will read this evening (I have an event at my Quaker Meeting all day today).

Yesterday I left school early so that I could meet with my primary care provider, a nurse practitioner, who has been my "doctor" for the past few years.  She was delighted by my weight loss, my changes in diet and my embarking upon exercise.

This appointment was a followup to my emergency room visit.  We discussed thoroughly what had happened, and she examined me pretty thoroughly.   She is referring me to a neurologist as a precaution, but she agrees with my wife's sister (who has not seen me) who is a physician's assistant in primary care (currently at an urgent care center) who is a superb diagnostician.  I almost certainly did not have a TIA, but rather an ocular migraine.

Yes, there were two episode, the second in the hospital lasting ten minutes, accompanied by nausea, and affecting only my right eye.

I never had any aphasia -  the EMTs joked that i could write their report for them:  I was completely aware and able to communicate, to note in detail what was happening to me.

I never had any loss of any muscular function, either during or after either episode.  I retain full strength in all my appendages and have not lost any sense of balance.  In fact, I have now done yoga for the past 3 nights, where the only restriction was largely the first night when I could feel the impact of having basically been in bed for more than 24 hours - in the hospital for 28.  

I have a history of migraines, although my last episode was almost 30 years ago.

I have had a recent major change in diet.

I know yet again the importance of keeping my eye on my stress levels.  

I had gone off my meds because a decade ago when I had been diagnosed with high BP and cholesterol I had engaged in a pattern of exercise and diet, lost 30 pounds, and lowered both to the point where I did not need medication.

I accept now that I still need the meds.  I have used myself as a learning opportunity for my students.

Last night I slept for 7 hours uninterrupted.  That is the first time in more than a decade that I have been able to do that, even when I have been exhausted.

I am now down below 173 pounds for two consecutive days.  I had not been that low since the early 1980s.  

I feel comfortable enough focusing less on my health than on my teaching, thinking about my students.

I have known Mary Beth Tinker for a number of years.

I knew she would use herself to illustrate how even someone who did not think of themselves as an activist could be propelled into speaking up, and thereby could make a difference.

She encouraged the kids to be active.

Those administrators who heard all or part of her presentation were delighted at the fire she lighted in some of the students.

I had a health crisis this week, or at least the appearance of one.

Despite that, or even because of that, it was a very good week.

I had tremendous support and caring from administrators, teachers, support staff.

I had several students send me emails while i was in the hospital.

I am in a community that values me as a person as much as they do as a teacher.

It was a very good week.

I learned.

My students learned.

And we go on.

Thought I might share.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it, because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

    by teacherken on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 04:46:20 AM PST

  •  Recc'd if nothing else, for the use of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, wishingwell

    Fleur de Kos. Glad you 're feeling better. Stay well.

    If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? When I am only for myself, then what am "I"? And if not now, when?

    by betorah on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 06:13:10 AM PST

  •  Thanks for sharing, tk (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Betty Pinson
  •  Wonderful lessons, TK; thanks for sharing! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Those lessons - the critical thinking and reasoning process, and that you can make a difference - are vital. It is wonderful that you are communicating to your students that you respect them as people on the cusp of adulthood. You are showing your faith in their potential for rigorous thought, and your hope that they will commit to engagement with the issues of their time.

    It's a long process, though, honing the ability for critical, evidence-based thinking. I'm still shaping it when I teach the capstone course in one of our doctoral programs. I'm still shaping it as a mentor to junior faculty members. For that matter, I'm still trying to shape my own skills, after more than 40 years of research practice.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks for your commitment to public education. Hope your health continues to improve. And hope that you will have time and energy for continued witness to the importance of {public} {education} with both words, and their deeper meaning, stressed.

  •  Ken, you are amazing! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You endured a terrible health scare and turned it into a learning experience for your students.

    Glad you're feeling better. Take care of yourself. We're not as young as we used to be ;-)

    Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

    by Betty Pinson on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 03:50:59 PM PST

  •  I am so happy to hear you are feeling better (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My sister , also a teacher of 30 yrs, had quite a health scare too. In fact, she was told by a oncologist obgyn that she had ovarian cancer and she wanted to start chemo ASAP. We were all very anxious, naturally. But something told her to get a second opinion and her friend suggested another oncologist obgyn who decided on surgery to be able to take out the large mass and test it and see if it was malignant.

    Well lo and behold, the surgeon removed a football sized tumor from her left ovary that was benign and all the other tissues were negative for cancer as well..there was no cancer anywhere and the oncologist specialist was very thorough.

    My sister almost went through unneeded chemo which would have weakened her immune system with other side effects when she did not even have cancer. And this specialist that insisted she had cancer without enough testing was highly recommended at Emory University, Yikes.

    But anyway, she so misses her students and she will return for the last 8 weeks of school and this will be her last year. She planned to retire and she was eligible last year so this was planned well in advance of getting sick.

    She will then perhaps do some subbing or volunteer work in local schools or move back to the northeast and do some part time teaching or tutoring or volunteering here.

    But I have been wanting to share this with you as you can relate on so many levels. Her students and her colleagues and admin were very worried about her.

    Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 03:55:40 PM PST

    •  sorry to talk so much about the health issues (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I will comment more on the observation and other things.  
      But when you got sick and posted that, I just had found out my sister was going to be OK and returning to school,.

      Plus she was announced as Teacher of the Year for her county in GA and we found that out as your diary was posted.

      Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

      by wishingwell on Sat Mar 01, 2014 at 03:59:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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