Friday, May 23, 2008

My Senior Final Exam Question

Two weeks until final exams. Geez I think I only finally got all my students' names right last week. How do you determine in one test how much your students are taking away from your class? Unlike President Bush, I don't feel that one single test can do such a thing, especially for the complex issues and ideas we discuss in my senior class. The closest I've been able to come is this essay question. This is what I gave my seniors about a week ago:

There is an unsettling trend in government today. Politicians have either been making overtures toward replacing the humanities (Art, Music, Literature, etc.) with more “relevant” material (composition and math), or pushing out the humanities with their insistence on copious standardized tests.

Assume that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has announced that they are going to remove literature from the English classroom and make it straight composition writing, vocabulary, grammar and mechanics. You have the opportunity to write a letter that will be read by the determining body of the PDE. Defend keeping literature in the classroom.

You must use at least one work from each of the periods we covered in class during the course of the year and explain how it is a good example of what literature has to offer our society. You may use your notebooks as reference during the writing. You may not have a prewritten composition when you come to class. Your best bet is to have a well thought out outline of your points when you come in.

A good grade on this final means that you not only did well in this class, but that you have the potential to go out into the “real” world with the ability to think critically and question authority rationally—skills which will enrich your life no matter what your eventual career may be.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Poetic Bloodline

As the year wraps up, I always try to reinforce one last time to my seniors how important literature and poetry have been to the health and well being of humanity. After one of my spiels, a senior in my fourth period class sent me the link to this peom that was featured on HBO's Def Poetry series.

Freestyle isn't normally my cupa'joe, but this one did raise the hair on the back of my neck.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

How can such a great presentation make me feel so lousy?

Yesterday was an in-service day in my district, and rather than the usual meetings and rigmarole those days normally entail, we had a guest speaker, Dr. Willard Daggett of the International Center for Leadership in Education. Dr. Daggett is an impressive speaker who has the ability to hold an audience's attention through a presentation over five hours long (well, we had lunch in the middle).
The problem is that it was one of those presentations that contained information that I'm sure will keep me up nights if I think about it too much. I'm not going to go into details here just yet, as I am still sorting through all of it in my mind, but in essence he spelled out in very real terms the challenges to education in the United States that will be occurring in the next decade or so, and by extension he outlined the challenges to the country as a whole as well. And, to me at least, it's not pretty at all. Don't get me wrong, he did give numerous ways to help improve education here, but I think an unintended byproduct was that he made me feel that in a lot of ways, it would be rearranging the deck chairs on The Titanic.