Christmas through the eyes of a 7 year old.

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Do you remember what it’s like to be seven? I don’t. I’m not sure what age I figured out that Santa wasn’t real. I don’t think we left cookies and milk out for him. My niece was so excited tonight. Even though she got gifts from her grandparents and aunts and uncle, she’s still looking forward to what Santa will put in her stocking tonight.

Before she went to bed, she had to make sure that Santa would be able to make it from the fireplace to where the cookies were waiting for him. Here’s what she did…

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There is one thing that this little girl is really good at…

Giving directions.

Cultural Proficiency

This is one of the latest buzz words in my district. So how do you suppose they decide if I’m culturally proficient? Well, they hire a bunch of consultants, of course!

During the first few weeks of school we were required to do a survey. The survey was linked to our email accounts and we had to have a specific individual password to take it. We were assured that our responses would be kept confidential, blah, blah, blah…

This was one of the strangest surveys I have ever taken. Here are the five choices for our responses.

Disagree

Disagree somewhat more than agree

Disagree somewhat and agree somewhat

Agree somewhat more than disagree

Agree

WTF? Just the choices alone make you think that they’re trying to trick you. At the end of the survey they were asking specific questions about race and how you handled situations that turned out well and also turned out poorly. It was the strangest survey I’ve ever done. Plus, while I took the thing, it made me angry that they were even asking a bunch of questions.

I really wonder how someone would determine if I’m culturally proficient. I’ve been teaching in an urban district for 13 years. Our population is roughly 30% Asian, 30% African-American, 26% Caucasian, 13% Hispanic and 2% Native American. Our students speak over 103 different languages and dialects.

I am a minority in my classroom. For 13 years, I have learned about my students and their cultures in a variety of ways. I’ve been to their homes for graduation parties. I’ve been invited to their quincineras. I was invited to the Karen New Year celebration last year. I often have conversations with my students about their cultures.  I even travel to places around the world where they are from.  But yet, time and time again, their lack of test score performance is being blamed on my lack of cultural competence (and a whole host of other things outside my control).

During the course of the school year everyone in my district is supposed to be trained to be culturally proficient.  I am quite curious how this is going to work.  The few that have been through the training haven’t been impressed.  And as with many things in a large district, somebody thought this was the magic bullet to help close the achievement gap and bought this program without any thought to implementation.

I have no idea when I’m slated to be trained to be culturally proficient.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll just keep plugging away, teaching mathematics under the assumption that I’m a racist…   Hmm…  I guess the title of my blog is pretty appropriate.

How do you relate?

I made a confession to my students this week. I’m hooked on the Twilight stuff. I had never read any of the books or seen any of the movies. I was wondering what all the fuss was about, so I put Twilight on my Netflix queue. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I popped it in the DVD player. I was expecting to just be rolling my eyes at the whole thing. Vampires? C’mon. Let’s get real.

So I watched the movie.

I completely understand why teenagers are hooked. It’s got the good vs evil with the lines sort of blurred. There’s a typically forbidden romance. The characters are high school students and have to sit through boring classes just like they do. The characters are ones that they can relate to (minus the vampire qualities).

Once I understood the draw, I went further. I saw New Moon. Then I got the first book. I read almost the whole thing on Sunday. Monday, I started book two. I finished that one Thursday night. They are complete fluff reading. Escapism. Entertainment. For a long time I’ve been on a non-fiction kick. So I haven’t read any fluff in ages. Honestly, it’s nice to just escape into a book and not think about other stuff.

When I made my confession I had a variety of reactions. Mostly disbelief. How could their teacher be reading something they read? And like it. We joked around quite a bit throughout the week. I had one girl ask me if I’m “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward.” I confessed… Edward.

I’m almost kind of embarrassed to admit that I’m enjoying reading the fluff. But in telling my students, I became more human to them. Ms. B likes to read the same books I do. We have something in common. How could that be?

I have one boy who is asking if he can borrow the first book. It’s close to 500 pages. I’d bet that Herman has never read a book that long. We all know the statistics about how people who read for pleasure have higher test scores, etc. I’ll be loaning the book to Herman. I’m just amazed that he wants to read it. Did you hear that? He wants to read. I guess I’m promoting literacy to top it off!

The Isle of Mathematics

On Wednesday this week we had an early release day and had some professional development. As usual, it was a round robin sort of thing where we go in groups to three different presentations. The topics for the day were all about literacy, vocabulary and facilitating classroom discussions. This is all good and well. I believe that we all need to pitch in and work on getting our students to read and have all of those literacy skills. But with everyone working on literacy, I couldn’t help it when a thought popped into my head.

As a member of the math department, I’m on an island with 11 other people. Occasionally we get visitors on our island from the science department. Sometimes we even get a Social Studies teacher that needs to borrow some calculators for game that involves a few calculations. Most people avoid our island. This is probably due to some sort of math phobia that they’ve acquired over the years. We navigate off the island and delve into other topics and teach new vocabulary and critical reading when problem solving. But we’re pretty much on our own when it comes to math.

In the days of high stakes tests we all need to pitch in and create a productive learning environment for our students. It’s easy to see that the chances of improving our reading and writing scores are pretty good. Everyone in the building is paying attention to literacy. Math? Hmm… Like I said… We’re on an island with few visitors.