Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the category “education”

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

A Nation in Distress

distress-flag

I love our nation, I say the Pledge every day with my class and yes, we do say “One nation under God!”  I respect the lives lost defending our national symbol that represents the dreams and aspirations of our forefathers. I would never wear a flag, burn a flag or otherwise desecrate it. I am the son of a veteran and I am fully aware of the controversy surrounding those who would use the flag as a symbol protest.

So why then am I displaying an upside-down flag? Flying our flag upside down is not disrespectful if it is being used as signal of distress. Our nation is in a state of distress and it is about to be destroyed from within if we do not wake up as a nation. My upside-down flag signals that we are facing pain. I fear pain that we have never seen before. I am frightened. Frightened foremost for my children and grandchildren, as well as everyone else.

The election of Donald J. Trump happened because our country is in distress. Ultra- alt-right Tea Party types have brainwashed the masses (even though more people rejected Trump at the polls) into believing our country is no longer great. Our news outlets gave free reign to give un-American rallies air time and our radio airways have been taken over by propogandists spewing hatred.  Social media has been a breeding ground for false news, hatred, racism and worse. Congress has hijacked our Constitution and effectively stole the right of President Obama to appoint a member to the Supreme Court.

A huge segment of our population has been brainwashed into believing that America needs to be great again and that our national identity has been hijacked by ‘undesirables’. The result is Donald J. Trump! You may disagree with my analysis of our situation, and that is your right. However, you need to understand what is about to happen.

Trump is putting together a cabinet of individuals that pose a huge threat to our way of life. His potential Supreme Court nominee or nominees will lead our nation down a dangerous path.

Looking at Trump’s cabinet we see a crew should frighten us all.  Trump’s ties to Russia are emerging as he is considering appointing a Secretary of State that will ease sanctions so he can close his ExxonMobile deal with Putin. He has chosen a Secretary of Education who has actively worked to destroy public education. His choice for Homeland Security is a General. What’s next, martial law?

Trump’s cabinet will include an EPA Secretary who disputes climate change and wants to roll back regulations that protect our climate, and the very air we breathe. His choice for the SBA comes from his pals at the WWE! What’s next, death cage matches on the Mall?

It gets worse, he wants a General with the Nickname “ Mad Dog” to lead our Department of defense and a certifiable lunatic who got booted from the NSA as his top security adviser.  His top pick for HUD is psychotic according to Trump himself.  Even if we  survive this cabinet of fools, the middle class will not survive his Supreme Court.

Labor will be in distress. Workers across our country are about to be economically slaughtered. Trump’s first salvo was his attack on the United Steel Workers this week. Trump paved the way for Carrier to move hundreds of jobs under the guise that they are saving jobs. When called out on his lies, we saw Trump’s true agenda. He told them they needed to work harder and implied that they should accept a salary cut that would take them below the minimum wage.

Be prepared for a bloodletting on the labor front. First on his agenda will be a National Right to Work Law that will target every private sector union in the nation. Anti-Labor National Labor Relation Board appointments will make it impossible to correct unfair practices in the workplace. A SCOTUS decision that will allow ‘free riders’ to benefit from union bargaining and protection. Even those ‘free riders’ will lose the benefits of collective bargaining when it is banned (see Wisconsin). SCOTUS will rule that public school budgets can be raided to fund private and religious schools. Hedge fund controlled Charter Schools will eventually finish off our public-school system, Trump’s push for privatization will take a death grip across every public service sector across the nation. Teacher’s across the nation will watch their tenure and seniority rights get stripped away and students will be at the mercy of the power-brokers.

Our social safety net will be ripped apart as public service worker’s pensions will be stripped bare. Medicare and Medicaid may be destroyed. Healthcare for all may be a thing of the past. Our most vulnerable will be labeled as burdens and interlopers.

Our Country is in distress. Head the distress signal. Resist!

The End is Near

 

the-end-sign

Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.

No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?

The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.

Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.

The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.

The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.

The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.

The end is near for our freedoms. Our freedom to worship as we choose, love who we choose, opine as we choose and severely limit our individual life choices. Trump’s demolition crew is about to dismantle our Inalienable Rights.  Disguised as the Righteous, his crew is about to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

We all know what we witnessed the day after election day. Many of us saw our own union sisters and brothers celebrate Trump’s win. Many of us lashed out on social media and even got into heated arguments. We could not believe that our sisters and brothers and even our loved ones failed to see that Trumps win will destroy us all.

If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!

Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.

Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.

Not This Year

Nine and ten-year-old children are a curious bunch. They are on the cusp of adolescence and are just beginning to get a grasp on the outside world. Their minds are like sponges, soaking up everything that is around them. This is a very special time in their lives where they have opinions based on their own schema.

As a fifth grade teacher I have always looked forward to election season to introduce the concept of opinions, fact and fiction. I particularly always enjoyed introducing my young students to presidential campaigns, the Electoral College, and the importance of debate in our democratic process.

Not this year.

In the past, my students looked at candidates, discussed their campaigns, looked at the issues, and debated themselves. We always had mock elections and looking at the results were often an interesting exercise. My students usually began by parroting what was heard at home or they would disagree with what they heard at home. I encouraged them to read the news and watch news channels. We often discussed the different viewpoints presented. We read opinion pieces and discussed that opinions were worthless unless backed up with real facts. I also encouraged them to watch the debates and be prepared to discuss them the next day in class.  Yes, we did that in fifth grade!

Not this year!

How can I? This year I cannot discuss the issues with children. In addition, I am faced with families that are so polarized on the candidates that any discussion is viewed as an attempt to indoctrinate children. So how am I supposed to explain Trump saying he and other rich men have  the privilege to grope women when some think it is ok?

I see pictures of high school students in very diverse schools wearing Trump hats saying “Make America Great Again” and I want to weep because I know their parents love it.

I would love to discuss the issues of the campaign, with my students, but not this year. I just can’t!

I can’t discuss Trump rating women, calling them pigs, calling immigrants rapists, saying POW’s are not heroes, or saying Muslims are our enemy. Trump has brought our nation into a dark hole.

How can I? How can I with fifth grade students?

I will teach them history.

I will teach them about the peoples’ history!  I will teach them why our nation is the greatest in the world and about the mistakes we have made in the past. I will instill in them the importance of learning from the past. I will prepare them to create their own opinions based on facts not rhetoric. I will teach them about respect and the rights and responsibilities we all have as citizens.

As teachers we touch the future every day as we teach our students. We need to ensure our future is bright and we need to prepare our students so our nation never ever has to return into this very dark hole politics has brought us into.

So not this year! This year we look to the future. We ignore Trump and we defeat this ugly narrative by educating our students to learn from the past. And hopefully our great experiment will survive. We will survive not through fear and intimidation. We will survive through knowledge. Because, knowledge is power. And once we have the power, America will continue to be great.

Independence?

flag

On this 4th of July it is appropriate to quote our Declaration of Independence in response to those that want to undermine our public schools.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;”

To paraphrase from the Declaration,

On this Independence Day it’s time to declare that our public education system will no longer be subjected to a long train of abuses and usurpations, under a design to reduce it under absolute Despotism, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such forces, and to provide new Guards for future security of our schools!

Dane Ravitch shared a leaked draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform. While there are many Planks that I strongly agree with, I must say that I am quite disappointed with the Planks on education. One would think that since the AFT and the NEA jumped on Hillary Clinton’s bandwagon with a way to early endorsement, education would be at the forefront of this Platform.

Unfortunately, this platform’s Plank on Early Childhood, Pre-K, and K-12 is  nothing more than rhetoric used to fill up a page in a meaningless statement. Much like Clinton’s promise to close every school that is below average, it actually puts our public schools at risk.

Let me first state that the Republican Party is in shambles and I will not support Trump or his Party. That said, I post the following in hopes that enough of us will speak out and demand real change.

When the Democratic Party declares that they will ensure there are great schools in every zip code and that the Federal Government will continue to play a critical role, it should send shivers up our collective spines. Just what does this mean?

Will the Party hand over control  of our schools over to John King to allow him to systematically wrest control away from local communities, much like he did in New York?

When bureaucrats tout high standards as a paradigm to success, we should be questioning whose standards? Just what are those standards and should the standards be the same for every child and every community in our diverse nation? Common Core is a failure and it appears the Democrats are doubling down on this miserable social experiment.

The Party Platform also states, “We will hold schools, districts, communities, and states  accountable for raising achievement levels for all students—particularly low-income students,  students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.” Does this mean the Party will continue the disaster of high stakes testing? Just what does accountability mean? Is this what Hillary meant when she said we should close every below average school? Simple math tells us below average means the bottom 50%. Is this the Party’s plan?

The Party’s  Plank also throw support behind charter schools. It claims increased transparency. Just what does that mean? Increased transparency does not mean total transparency. It does not mean that they will be held to the same standards as public schools. It does not mean that they will prevent charters from hand picking students, weeding out those with special needs, and hijacking space and resources from public schools.

They refuse to state that if they actually supported public schools and public school teachers there would not be any market for charter schools. Until we have true campaign finance reform, hedge funds  will continue to drive the Party’s Planks on education.

The bottom line, the AFT’s and NEA’s way to early endorsement resulted in a lackadaisical rhetoric   filled  platform that double down on the reformers agenda which will make us more dependent on false promises.

On this Independence Day it’s time to declare that our public education system will no longer be subjected to a long train of abuses and usurpations, under a design to reduce it under absolute Despotism, it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such forces, and to provide new Guards for future security of our schools.

Let your voiced be heard, demand changes and take back our Party. Declare our independence from those working to destroy our nation’s future.

 

 

 

Before you vote…THINK

To my Republican teacher friends,
Last night we heard every Republican candidate say that they would promote charters, vouchers, private schools, and home schooling. We heard them call teachers and schools failures.

If any one of them wins, know this, (as Ted Cruz would say) your public school will be at risk, children will lose necessary resources, and your careers will be at risk. You may not have a job, and their will be no social services available to help your family survive.

The Supreme Court will become a weapon that would destroy our way of life, your children will fight endless wars, you won’t afford health insurance, your pension will be a memory and you will have to work until you are dead or 70 years old.

And if you vote for any of them, please please never try teaching Social Studies.

Open Letter to Commissioner Elia

Dear Commissioner Elia,

This past Thursday your visit with Long Island teacher union presidents has validated the concerns I have with you as our Commissioner of Education and with your agenda. I listened carefully as you attempted to spin an agenda that was set by your predecessor, John King, and Governor Cuomo. You often hid behind federal policy or existing legislation as you addressed the concerns and questions posed to you that evening. Your attempt to blame our union for “agreeing” to the use of high stakes testing was sophomoric.  In addition, abruptly ending the meeting when you knew several of us wanted our turn to “ dialogue” with you was an insult to us and the thousands of teachers,( and teacher as parents ) on Long Island we represent.

I take exception to many things you stated when you met with us. You claimed that parents and teachers wrongly put everything that is negative in education today under the Common Core. You then attempted to spin that your Aim High NY survey somehow supported Common Core because they are high standards and that we just have to “rework” some of them.

Your Aim High NY survey was akin to a “push poll’ in politics. It was nearly impossible to condemn the Common Core Standards, it was cumbersome to answer and the survey taker was forced to work within the Common Core to offer changes. Yes, you were right when you stated we want high standards, who would be against that? You use that premise as you continue to spin faulty, abusive standards. New York had high standards, and before your predecessor push for the Common Core, NYSED was working towards improving them. I would like to know, how much was spent on that effort and where did those recommendations go?

When questioned  about the state assessments and with comments that we felt these tests were abusive and hurt children, your response was cold hearted and left me feeling that your really don’t care what children are facing as long as we meet a federal mandate. Your claim that the tests will be shorter and that tests will be untimed was addressed by those in attendance. We asked about ESL students, students with special needs and the concern that this new plan will not work. You fell back on your reform agenda to provide answers that only led to a validation that things are not changing and that you have been charged to drive Governor Cuomo’s and John King’s reform agenda.

Your simplistic view that parents and teachers are ‘stressed’ and that you are attempting to relieve that stress by listening to us and working towards some sort of change is nothing more than spin. You said that you believe in a standardized evaluation system that uses assessments as a component of that system. That is not relieving stress, that is signaling that the state will continue to abuse children with high stakes assessments that are meant to drive a political agenda.

When you were questioned on APPR, you stated that some state that there is a 4 year moratorium on using those scores but you prefer calling it a transformational period. You stated that scores will not be used for 4 years. Yet, when someone questioned that they may be used in the future you claimed they would not. You did not address the fact that the new scores will still be generated and distributed to teachers, districts, parents and the press. You did not address the fact that those scores will be used as advisory scores for districts. You did not address the fact that the assessments are based on standards that you admit are seen as inappropriate for many children and that are currently being rewritten. You claim these assessments are mandated by federal policy. My question for you is this; does federal policy require 8-9 10 year olds to take 9+ hours of exams?

Your response to the Opt Out movement was disturbing. You said that New York had the highest Opt Out rate in the nation and in the same breath you said, that Opt Out was not a factor that has driven you to do anything you have done in the last 8 month. Then you went on to say that you hoped that parents would let their children take the tests this year. You were then told to expect Opt Out rates to soar this year. We informed you that these tests have no instructional value. Your flip response was that additional questions have and will be released. You failed miserably to address our concerns and as a result many of us have begun to double down on our support for the Opt Out movement.

You touted that in Hillsborough, Florida, you worked with the local union to develop an evaluation process. With all due respect, New York is not Florida and Long Island certainly is not Hillsborough. The results on Long Island are clear; if we were a state we would lead the nation and the world. We do not need your “fixing”.

You claim that you have been throughout the entire state “listening”. Your social media campaign, including your Twitter account is chock full of your attempts to spin the comments on your so called “listening tour”. But one thing became perfectly clear to me on Thursday evening. Your “listening tour” is not about you listening to the parents and educators in the state, it’s more about we should “listen” to you. And that Commissioner is a shame.  This local president listened and I have no confidence in you or your agenda.

Respectfully submitted

Ralph Ratto

President

New Hyde Park- Garden City Park Teachers’ Association

A question for the new year

This is usually the month that a so called pedagogical  necessity  is used all across our nation.  I think we all need to think about the following.

Were the engineers, scientists, or contractors who designed the lunar module and put men on the moon ever forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?comamndandlunar

How about the engineers and laborers who tamed a mighty river and designed  and built the Hoover Dam to supply electricity for millions, do you think they ever were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

hoover14

The Empire State Building was construct in only one year. Do you think the architects, contractors, laborers, financial backers of this monumental icon were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

The ” Greatest Generation ” saved the world and guaranteed a future for all of us. Do you think they were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

warship

Do you think scientists and doctors who achieved medical breakthroughs, such as Dr. Jonas Salk   were ever subjected  and were forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity?

salktime_covercroppedbest

Look at this shot of the construction of New York’s Verrazano bridge. Fifty years ago, the people who imagined, planned, and built this might structure were never subjected  or forced to undergo this so called pedagogical  necessity!verrazano

My question today is, where is the evidence that subjecting our elementary school children to hours of ‘ benchmark testing’ to assess their readiness for high stakes standardized testing, helps our nation?

All across the nation, elementary school children are being ‘measured’ by this  so called pedagogical tool. Ask yourselves why?

 

 

Saving Social Studies

As a fifth grade teacher, in New York State, I have felt the pressure of ‘fitting in’ Social Studies into my daily schedule.  Language Arts  and Math ‘block times’ have eaten away at the available time each day to teach the subject that is the most important.

I worry that NY’s new Social Studies Framework linked to the Common Core will effectively erode the curriculum into a series of tasks that have very little to do with learning about our past. Sites such as those provided by Putnam/ Northern Westchester BOCES are already watering down the curriculum. They have reduced learning about Europeans encountering Native Americans down to a 2 day lesson.

Imagine that! Two days!!

(I have included that 2 day lesson at the end of this posting)

Talk about watering down  a curriculum.

Over the past several years I have seen the time I have spent teaching Social Studies dwindle. I tried incorporating it into my ELA Block but, unfortunately I have had students leave my room during my ELA Block because they may have an Individualized Education Plan that mandates they  receive ELA instruction in a smaller setting. So if I combined Science or Social Studies into my ELA Block they would lose out.

I scheduled Social Studies in my plans but often those plans were interrupted. I was frustrated and was counseled that teaching Social Studies three days a week was just fine.Well it may be fine with my administrators, bit it certainly was not fine with me!

I love teaching fifth grade Social Studies. It’s focus is on the Western Hemisphere. It should be taught as a timeline, starting with how indigenous peoples settled into new lands and developed advanced civilizations that amazed European explorers. It should be focused on the “Peoples” struggles and advances.

Social Studies should not be taught in topics that are isolated from each other. In order for students to really understand what they are being exposed to, we as teachers must carefully build their schema.

This year I am taking a stand, in my classroom. I make sure I teach Social Studies every day.

I use various sources, including a wonderful series of books by Joy Hakim.  I use videos, audio recordings, and even Howard Zinn’s People History of the United States. I’ve read stories about Sitting Bull, and I am currently reading the biography of Chief Joseph Medicine Crow, Counting Coup.  So far my students have learned about the great civilizations of the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas, Mississipeans, Makahs, Iroquios, Anasazi, and more. We have learned about European exploration and conquest. We discussed the lust for gold, riches, and power that have shaped our historic background.

Currently we have begun to explore the formation of the English colonies and we will be analyzing the differences between them and how they interacted with Native Americans.

This week we began a new project. Using Legos my students will create their own Utopian civilization. Before they are allowed to use any resources ( Legos) they have been charged to develop a plan for their civilization. So far they have chosen a leader, established rules for discussions and began the process of deciding  just what their civilization will contain. They are discussing whether or not their economy will be based on farming,defense, healthcare, education, religion, tolerance and more.

  
This project is providing wonderful opportunities for me to teach. For example, one student stated that she wants to provide housing for the homeless. I used that as a catalyst to ask them to think of ways to ensure there are no homeless in their civilization.

At this point, my class is also writing individual essays on what they really want their civilization to be all about. Tomorrow I will be asking them to share their thoughts and to compromise on a shared solution.

Eventually they will be using the available resources to build their civilization.  

 In the meantime, we will read about the Puritans, Ann Hutchinson, William Penn and others and perhaps that may lead us in another direction.

In the meantime, I will post periodic updates of my class Utopia as I thumb my nose at lessons like these from BOCES.

Lesson 2: Europeans Encounter Native Americans

Overview:

  • Students will examine how the Native Americans viewed the Europeans, and then look at two case studies involving the interaction of the Native Americans and the Europeans.
    Suggested time allowance: 2 class periods

Unifying Themes: (based on the National Council for the Social Studies)

  • Geography, Humans and the Environment
  • Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures
  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • Global Connections and Exchange

New York State Social Studies Framework

  • Social Studies Standards
    • 1: United States and New York
    • 2: World History
    • 3: Geography
  • Key Ideas and Conceptual Understandings
    • 5.3 European Exploration and Its Effects: Various European powers explored and eventually colonized the Western Hemisphere. This had a profound impact on Native Americans and led to the transatlantic slave trade.
      • 5.3b Europeans encountered and interacted with Native Americans in a variety of ways.
  • Social Studies Practices:
    • Gathering, Using and Interpreting Evidence
      • Recognize and use different forms of evidence used to making meaning in social studies (including sources such as art and photographs, artifacts, oral histories, maps, and graphs).
    • Comparison and Contextualization
      • Categorize divergent perspectives of an individual historical event.
      • Identify how the relationship among geography, economics, and history helps to define a context for events in the study of the Western Hemisphere.

Common Core Learning Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

  • RH.5-8.9: Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic
  • RL.5.1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RL.5.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
  • RL.5.6: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described
  • WHST.5-7.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • WHST.5-8.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and present the relationships between information and ideas clearly and efficiently.
  • WHST.5-8.8: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Unit Essential Question:

  • Do interactions between peoples always lead to positive results?

Activities/Procedures:

Day 1

1. Read excerpts from Morning Girl and its parallel text, Journal Entry by Christopher Columbus.Teachers can find both excerpts in Primary Sources and Literature Readings, or use the book Morning Girl by Michael Dorris and the Journal entry included here. If you wish, use Encounter instead of Morning Girl.

2. Have students consider the ways the young girl and Columbus viewed one another and their respective cultural groups. What were each group’s impressions and intentions? Students will make a T chart or a Venn diagram to record the similarities and differences of the perspectives of the two groups/

3. Project “Images and Descriptions Columbus and the Taino.” (included) Discuss the images and excerpts from the diaries and journal. How do these images and description add to what we already know?

Day 2

1. Introduce or review the definition of “turning point” and note that the class will analyze what happened to the Aztec when they encountered the Europeans as an example of a turning point. Explain that the Spanish conquistador, Cortez led an army against the Aztecs in 1521 and conquered them.

2. Distribute the “Compare and Contrast Chart for the Aztec” (included) and have students cover the “after” column when discussing the “before” column.

3. Ask guiding questions that will require the students to read and extract information from the compare/contrast chart such as

  • Where did the Aztec live before the Spanish Conquest?
  • What were some of their technological achievements before the Spanish Conquest?

4. Teacher can utilize a map of Mexico and Central America when discussing the geographic location category, by pointing, or asking a student to point to the areas that were inhabited by the Aztecs. Teacher should ask questions about location and ask students to hypothesize about why the Spanish would be interested in this area (Example: resources, land, treasure, etc.)

5. At the end of the discussion for the “before” column, students will be asked to read to themselves the information presented in the “after” column.

6. The class as a whole will do a verbal compare and contrast of the Aztecs before and after the Spanish Conquest. Teacher will direct discussion by using guiding questions if necessary.

  • What is the difference/similarities pre- and post- Spanish Conquest in language?
  • What do you think is the biggest difference in Aztec life after the Spanish Conquest?
  • How was the Conquest a turning point in Aztec life?

7. For homework: students will create a double–sided playing card to illustrate the turning point for Aztec life.

Evaluation

  • Completed T-Chart
  • Trading Card

Vocabulary (See Glossary for definitions)

  • turning point
  • conquistador
  • demographics
  • encomienda
  • indigenous population
  • Latinos
  • pandemic
  • polytheism

 

Is this just another sleight of hand ruse?

Is the pendulum really swinging or are we just part of a sleight of hand ruse?

3 card Monte

As a deadline creeps closer and school districts all across New York State huddle in negotiations with local teacher associations to agree on a new evaluation plan, under the threat of a loss in state aid, a prominent Regent and Governor Cuomo have either come to their senses or are imitating Penn and Teller.

Regent Tillis of Long Island said to a forum of teachers,  “I oppose the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and principals,” and  “not admitting a mistake is making a bigger mistake.” He also called for an end to the use of the state’s so-called “growth scores,” and he recommended changes in state law that would allow more emphasis on local measures of achievement. These would include “Student Learning Objectives” — assessments adopted by school districts — as well as teacher-written tests and “portfolios” of students’ classwork. He also made a point to say he was speaking as an individual and not for the Board of Regents.

At the next meeting of the Board of Regents on Sept. 16-17 they will be voting to make the new teacher-principal evaluation rules permanent. The question remains, will Tilli’s vote reflect his bold statement to teachers or will he say once again he has no choice but to continue the status quo? Are his words just a distraction from the criticism he has been receiving, much like a Penn and Teller trick? I hope not.

New York Governor Cuomo issued a press release today stating ,

 “The fact is that the current Common Core program in New York is not working, and must be fixed. To that end, the time has come for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns. I am taking this action not because I don’t believe in standards, but because I do.”

He promised to ask  a representative group from his former Education Commission, including education experts, teachers, parents, the Commissioner of Education and legislative representatives to perform a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Common Core Standards, curriculum, guidance and tests in order to address local concerns.

Cuomo’s sleight of hand has been exposed before. I don’t trust him anymore than I would trust the guy on the corner playing 3 Card Monte.

Cuomo states, in his press release, that he believes in the standards and he blames the NYS Education Department for its faulty implementation, even though he held state aide hostage until his vision for implementation was adhered to.  Cuomo goes on to say he sympathizes with the frustration of parents yet he refuses to visit with them at the schools where their children go.

Cuomo refuses to meet with teachers, refuses to visit our classes, and he knows full well that he continues to hold state aide hostage today, until teachers agree to his faulty rollout of Common Core.  Notice he is not calling an immediate halt of his new evaluation plan!

What do you think? Is that pendulum swinging or are we the target of a sick magic trick?

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