Friday, November 16, 2007

My Transcendental Journal

November 15, 2007

The Transcendental fieldtrip. The wettest one yet. As we were driving to school this morning, and Bill offered visions of potential disasters-limbs from trees overweighed by rain falling on some unsuspecting junior, I actually thought that we may have to postpone the trip, though I had told my classes that we'd go no matter what unless the weather closed school. But when the temperature dropped ten degrees on our way to school, I realized that there could be other restrictions. Luckily, by 10:00 am the winds had died down, and though it's been raining lightly on us for an hour, there's no reason not to be here. In fact, I've realized that this is the best time of year for this fieldtrip: "To the attentive eye, every season has it's own beauty" (Emerson).

I'm sitting on a folded beach towel, hunkered under my purple umbrella, and balancing this journal on my knee. Uncomfortable-yes.

I brought some coffee in a thermos which I'm afraid to drink because I've already found that the bathrooms are locked. Inconvenient-yes.

I hiked around the perimeter of the park with the stream on my right hand side for an hour encouraging Transcendentalism. Annoying-yes.

I forgot my camera at the picnic area. (It's the first time I even remembered to bring it!) Oh no!


How many times have I written this journal? How many times have I rediscovered this feeling? When will I learn to change like the leaves do every year? This year, the fall has been so wet and gray, but today I see how beautiful the leaves are. So orange and yellow and read and spottled. Their beauty persists.

In modern times our new worries-carpel tunnel's, back and neck problems, am I more machine because I rely too much-the more things stay the same. Emerson and Thoreau are worth knowing because they try to respond to the same fears. Will we lose our touch with nature? Will we totally destroy nature? Maybe we can; maybe we can't, but we can miss the point.

Thoreau believed that reform must start with the individual.

Every year I stress about this trip. In years past, Bill has even suggested that it is too risky; Can I ensure the safety of my students? There are dangerous things here in the world, outside of the classroom.

But my greater fear is actually that they won't "get it." This trip only amplifies and reminds me of a core dilemma in my chosen profession: My duty is to teach effectively-to reach them where they are and lead them, guide them, carry or cajole them further in their understandings.


I cannot make them have an experience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Transcendental resources on the Internet

My AmLit students are studying Transcendentalism and planning their own fieldtrip "to the woods." Here are some resources that I will be using in class.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

external validation

Wow. I feel so special. Someone* recognized my wikispace on their presentation wiki at Once the hectic day-to-day routines of teaching began this fall, I lost some of my momentum in developing and using Internet sources to reflect on and record our class work. I haven't written many blog posts, I stopped reading the posts on my RSS reader, and I didn't add too many resources to my wikispace. Now that someone else has discovered and recognized my work I feel reinvigorated. I think that this is another useful application of world wide information posting: someone outside of my circle of collegues can inspire and encourage my work.
*Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

teaching to the test

I'm so glad that I teach at a private school which is not constrained by mandatory state tests.

Recently posted on 2 Cents Worth:
"Then I run across a comment that I was mostly impressed with. But the author, a network filter administrator, said,
'When I go through the process of adding a new Universal Resource Locator (URL) to the filter database I actually personally evaluate the site to see which of the state standards can be illustrated or in any way taught by the content of the site. If I find that none can it is immediately blocked. '
Interpreted literally, this reminds me of a comment made by a keynote speaker I recently saw at a state school boards association conference. It was a great keynote, funny, and thought provoking — in a good way. But the speaker said something that I, personally, do not agree with.
'If your second grade teacher teaches a fantastic unit on dinosaurs, but dinosaurs are not on the test, then that teacher is doing harm to your children. Anything that’s taught that’s not on the test, is doing harm to your children.'
Are the standards of instruction intended to be the extent of the instruction? The answer to that question may well be, “Yes.” But should the state define the limit of instruction? I don’t think so. Safety, I would suggest, should be the only limit to learning in our schools."

The students at my school do take standardized tests and we compare then on local and national levels to other types of schools, but our primary goal as educators is to educate, not take a test.