Blue Cereal's blog

How Teaching Is Like Blowing Leaves & Snow

As it turns out, however, leaf blowing and doing pretty much anything with snow are a mixture of art and science which take some time to master. Either can prove oddly fulfilling, but most of the time… well, it’s just frustrating and embarrassing how badly it sometimes goes. As someone who has embarrassed myself regularly throughout my life, I am certain I’ve rarely looked quite as foolish as I did the first half-dozen times I powered up either of these devices. Some days I still do. 

That’s the part that was somehow oddly familiar from day one.

The 1950s (Part Two)

Many questions about the 1960s are actually rooted in the 1950s, so keep that in mind when asked about racial tensions, shifting political dynamics, Cold War anxieties, or anything related to rebellion against cultural norms or “their parents’ generation.” Avoid oversimplifying the 1950s as the sum of its clichés while recognizing that the perception of homogeneity was enough to generate both the pressure to conform and the desire to rebel – sometimes within the same subgroups.

The 1950s (Part One)

In reality, the 1950s weren’t quite as universally unified or prosperous as they appeared. Still, it was close enough to give the 1960s something to challenge – a lifestyle and presumed set of values for the youth of the era to reject. (It’s difficult to rebel against the mainstream if there’s no mainstream.) If nothing else, the 1950s made the 1960s possible. The decade became the “ordinary world” for a whole new hero’s journey.

Things I Heard This Week

Feeding the BirdsI teach in a district that’s had some struggles in recent years. We’re majority-minority and 100% of my kids are “free and reduced lunch” (mostly “free”). Add in eighteen months of not having real school and the fact that most of the schools feeding into mine are already under state “control” (an ironic term by any measure), and it’s easy to grow discouraged. There aren’t always those “breakthrough” moments you count on to stay motivated - personally or academically. 

All the more reason to build a few monuments to the encouraging or amusing episodes which do occur from time to time. Here are three from this past week.

The "Fallon Treaties" (Part Two)

The British had for years flirted with the idea of building a canal right through Central America to allow their massive navy easier access from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Over time, the U.S. started thinking maybe that actually wasn’t such a bad idea – although they, of course, assumed American merchants and military vessels as the primary beneficiaries. Neither side was ready to push ahead with such an ambitious project, but each began worrying that perhaps the other would – perhaps cutting them out in the process.

In the meantime, they at least agreed on the most natural location of such a venture. The geography, the political dynamics, even the catchy name once completed:

The “Nicaragua Canal.”

The "Fallon Treaties" (Part One)

Several years ago, talk show host Jimmy Fallon did a wonderful bit with planted audience members in which they argued about which historical treaties were the coolest. The humor was built on the relative obscurity and banality of the treaties being discussed contrasted with the passion shown by the faux audience members. In other words, it was engaging because the subject matter was presumed to be so boring that no one could possibly care about it that much – and yet, they did.

Sound familiar?

Please Correct The Highlighted Sections

The App Says You SuckLike many people, I’ve been trying my hand at freelancing here and there for extra income over the past few years. In my case, it’s nothing glorious – just writing (or rewriting) web content explaining the benefits of regular eye exams, how a reverse mortgage works, or where Eddie Murphy’s net worth ranks him compared to other actors or comics.

Teacher Mentoring (I Have A Crazy Idea...)

I’m not magical or a genius or better than every other educator out there. (I mean, I’m better than a lot of them… but that’s really not the point.) What I am is available and willing, with a decent track record and a belief in most teachers’ potential vs. the realities beating them down week after week. It’s something I’d like to spend more time and energy on, in fact.

So here’s what I’m offering - for those of you still kinda interested, or at least still reading.

The Decision (Westside Community Schools v. Mergens, 1990 - Part Two)

1. The Equal Access Act of 1984 prohibited any public school which permitted “non-curricular” clubs to meet on school property from picking and choosing which clubs they allowed based on ideologies or beliefs. The trick was figuring out what counted as “non-curricular.”

2. Bridget Mergens was a student at Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1985, she asked her principal for permission to form a Christian club at the school. 

3. The school said no, arguing that organizations like Chess Club and Scuba Club were essentially (if not directly) curriculum-related in that they were extensions of the sorts of things the school promoted as a whole, and thus inadequate to trigger the requirements of the act. Bridget didn’t buy it.  

Eventually, the case ended up in the Supreme Court. You probably won't be surprised how it turned out. 

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