Category Archives: Education
In my graduate school class at the University of Central Florida, I was given an assignment requiring me to make an interactive poster using glogster.com. I decided to create an interpretation of one of my favorite poems, “I Too” by Langston Hughes.
You can see most of the poster below but to see the full-size poster, click on the link below. Depending on which browser you are using, you may need to search the link through Google to see the full size poster. I hope you enjoy it. (Remember it is interactive–click around on various features of the poster to discover some cool stuff. Then, you might want to try making your own poster at glogster.com
Happy Birthday, America
Recently I came across a thought provoking blog post written by Chris Lehman, the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, entitled “Making Teachers Rich”. The article deals with the hot-button issue of merit pay for educators and the notion among education reformers that higher pay for the best teachers is a key to attracting the best teachers to the profession. Lehman begins by reflecting on a statement by Jason Kamras, the Washington, DC district’s chief of human capital, who says, “We want to make teachers rich”. Lehmen then says,
Economically, teaching should be a wonderfully middle-class career.
You should be able to buy a house in the district you teach in.
You should be able to afford to send your own children to college.
You should be able to teach for a career and then retire with a pension.
You should not feel like teaching is unsustainable economically.
I don’t think teachers should aspire to riches, and I worry that someone who is running the Human Resource department of a major urban district would think we should.”
“To me, that speaks to so much that is wrong in our country. Right now we have a disappearing middle-class… and those of us left in the middle class are made to feel that our grip on it is tenuous at best. I worry this creates a dichotomy where there is only “rich” and “poor” – and that is no good for our country. I make more money as a high school principal than I ever thought I would when I went into education…. and I make about 125% what a teacher at the top of the pay scale in Philly makes. That should be enough. What bothers me is that making a teacher’s salary (or even a principal’s salary) doesn’t feel secure. I don’t know how I’m going to pay for Jakob and Theo’s college… and I worry a lot that the pension and social security that should take care of me when I’m retired won’t be there. I worry that the house my wife and I bought could lose value – although Philly has held value much better than most places in the country. Dealing with those issues as a society would go a long way toward making teachers feel much more financially secure than a raise based on test scores ever could.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be economically secure. But thinking that we are going to somehow find the “best” teachers and make them rich is to set teachers off on a chase for something that makes the kids a mere means to an end that we shouldn’t be chasing in the first place.
Let’s make teachers feel secure economically. Let’s make sure there’s a middle class for them to belong to. Let’s make a life of service honorable and secure. But let’s not forget that service doesn’t have to — and probably shouldn’t — “make you rich.”
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As a retired pastor and as a teacher, I agree with Lehman completely; and I can’t help noticing that a parallel controversy is happening in the United Methodist Church. Greed has infiltrated both systems. In the church we think that we will attract bright young people to seek a career in the ministry if we dangle the prospect of a high salary. We try to recruit the brightest and the best young adults to be the future leaders of our congregations.
Somehow, the United Methodist Church has forgotten that Jesus did not seek out and call the best and the brightest folks to be his disciples. He chose rugged fishermen, a despised tax collector, and other ordinary people to be the leaders of his movement. Jesus did NOT promise his followers wealth, fame, or adulation. In fact, he told them right up front that he was headed down a difficult road that would culminate in a cross. As we seek to develop a “culture of call” I am concerned that I am hearing recruiting pitches and I am NOT hearing preaching that asks young adults to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.”
I don’t think we should become a denomination anchored by mega-churches. I believe we should adopt a new vision of recreating the middle class in the United States, and CREATING a middle class in areas of extreme poverty. Historically, the Wesleyan movement is credited with preventing a bloody revolution of the poor in England. Methodists cared for the poor, set up schools, and reformed the nation through their emphasis on spreading scriptural holiness throughout the land. That is a worthy mission for us now in the 21st century as well.
Instead of enticing young men and women to enter the ministry with a promise of wealth and super-stardom, I believe we should be planning to work toward the restoration of the MIDDLE class. It will take hard work, personal sacrifice, and a lofty vision of staying contentedly in the ordinary middle to make it happen. I believe my petition to General Conference on creating a More Equitable Salary may be a step in the right direction.
Do you agree? Or do we need to appeal to greed and ambition in order to become a healthy church?
Coretta Scott King was my teacher. In 1980, when I was a student at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Mrs. King and Dr. Noel Erksine co-taught a course on the Theology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. It was an extraordinary opportunity, and it turned out to be a class that continues to influence my life.
The class was rigorous academically. We read all of Dr.King’s published work, Mrs. King’s autobiography, My Life With Martin Luther King, Jr. , and David Lewis’ biography, King. In addition, we were required to write a major term paper. (I earned a “C” on my paper which attempted to describe the influence of Gandhi on Dr. King.) Mrs. King was able to schedule presentations by some notable associates of her husband. Particularly, I remember presentations by Dr. Harold DeWolf (Dr. King’s dissertation professor from Boston University), and The Rev. Ralph Abernathy. We were disappointed when Ambassador Andrew Young cancelled his presentation to a combined class from the law school and the theology school due to an African president’s funeral that President Carter asked him to attend. Mrs. King was gracious, elegant, and personable as she offered us her personal perspective and memories of her life as a civil rights leader. We were well-instructed in the principles of non-violent direct action; and we were repeatedly told that non-violent direct action is NOT the same thing as pacifism. (I was dismayed to see a section in Wikipedia describing Mrs. King as a pacifist when I looked it up just now.) The entire class was remarkable, and I will not forget our last class session when we stood in a circle, crossed our arms, held hands, and sang “We Shall Overcome.” Mrs. King was a trained soprano (The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston) and her beautiful voice rang out clearly above the entire class as we sang.
In my work as a United Methodist pastor, and as a public school teacher, I have continued to look for ways to work for justice, peace, and racial equality. In the church, I served on the Florida Conference Commission on Religion and Race, the conference Ethnic Local Church Committee, and the work area on Church and Society. Each of these groups gave me an avenue to express my quest for justice, equality, and peace. Through the years I made conscious attempts to step over racial boundaries in whatever community I happened to be living. I became acquainted with the neighboring pastors of African American churches, and I attended worship in these churches when it was possible. I routinely attended the local observance of Dr. King’s birthday even when I was the only white face. On one occasion I was even asked to give a spontaneous speech at such a community gathering. Eventually, I was appointed to be the pastor of a small African American congregation as part of a two point charge in Ft. Myers, Florida. I served that congregation for three years, and I felt honored to get to know that community on an intimate level as only a pastor is privileged to do. I was pleased to find occasions to connect the congregations. When the African American Church held a barbecue, some of my white congregation would attend, and when the white congregation held a rummage sale, the favor was reciprocated. The women from the two churches would carpool together to district UMW meetings, and several times we were able to hold Bible studies together.
It wasn’t always easy, though. I paid a price for my quiet activism. In one congregation I served, some of the leaders were disturbed by several of my “unseemly” actions. I scandalized some in the congregation by officiating at the large wedding of an African American couple in “our” sanctuary. And a number of folks stayed home in protest on the night I invited the AME choir to sing at our annual revival meeting. Even though I seldom preached on the topic of racial justice, I stirred up the issue through my actions. I didn’t stay long in that church; and I was grateful for the guaranteed appointment that The United Methodist Church offers ordained elders in full connection.
As a teacher, I have also found ways to honor Dr. and Mrs. King. It has actually been fairly easy to incorporate something about Dr. King into each class I taught. As a reading teacher, I taught two groups of Kreyol-speaking Haitian kids how to sing “We Shall Overcome.” We discussed the importance of the song, and I introduced Dr. King to them as an important figure in American history. As an eleventh grade English teacher, I expanded our study of King’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. We searched the letter for examples of rhetorical devices as our curriculum required; but we also discussed the historical context of the letter. I brought in my signed copy of Dr. King’s book The Trumpet of Conscience, and showed my students Mrs. King’s personalized inscription. To my dismay, I am now discovering that my students no longer know the history. Today most students know rather vaguely that Martin Luther King, Jr. once gave a great speech, and that we commemorate his birthday with a national holiday; but beyond that even African American students know little.
I was excited about a month ago when I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three African women who used the strategy of non-violent direct action to bring peace to their countries. Dr. King’s legacy continues to live today, and his method for addressing injustice is still useful. These ideas still need to be passed on to future generations so that injustice may be dealt with in a productive. effective manner. So I would like to challenge YOU to honor Dr. King this year as we celebrate his life. And I’d like to offer you the space in the comments on this blog to tell others how you plan to recognize his accomplishments.
Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a campaign initiated by Vicki Davis (an award winning education blogger aka @coolcatteacher on Twitter) to raise awareness about the issue of modern slavery. Vicki asked educators to blog or tweet once each day during the winter break from school to help end modern slavery.
I enthusastically joined her campaign, and in the process I have learned a great deal. In this post, I would like to offer some resources that may be helpful to you as you address the issue of human trafficking.
Recently three organizations working to abolish slavery received an 11.5 million dollars from Google to aid their efforts. Each organization takes a slightly different approach to the fight. The International Justice Mission is a Washington DC based human rights agency that works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about 12 different countries. The Polaris Project and The Slavery Footprint work together in the US Human Trafficking Initiative. the Polaris offers a Human Trafficking Resource hotline, and the Slavery Footprint offers a great interactive website so people can learn how their lifestyle depends on slave labor.
Educator Larry Ferlazzo has compiled a great list of resources that will be useful to anyone interested in learning more about modern slavery. The CNN Freedom Project is an anti-slavery campaign that was launched in March 2011. They report that 2000 people have been freed so far through their efforts. Their website has many useful resources. ABC also reported extensively on child slavery in the summer of 2008. Their news reports inspired my initial interest in abolition, and although some of the links on this page are no longer active there are still some that might be helpful to you.
My book suggestions to learn more about modern slavery include the following:
A Crime So Monstrous by E. Benjamin Skinner–This book by a journalist was published in 2008 and is really a foundational book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern slavery. Many rave reviews.
Be the Change:Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World by Zach Hunter — The author of this book is a college student and a well known public speaker on the topic of abolition. He has been an abolitionist since age 12 and wrote this book as a teenager.
Sold by Patricia Mc Cormick- This novel about a 13 year old girl from Nepal sold into prostitution by her step-father was a finalist for the National Book Award. It is recommended for grade 9 and up.
The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church has some church specific resources posted on their website. These include bulletin inserts, official church resolutions, small group study resources, current legislative actions, and links to other Christian abolition resources.
President Obama has declared January to be Human Trafficking month; and the United Methodist Church designates January 11th as Human Trafficking Day. Although I am posting this information on January 6th, human trafficking education, advocacy, and preaching is appropriate on many different occasions. It can be easily integrated into the curriculum of a high school English class (see this great unit plan for a high school English class and my post on “Teens Stand Up Against Slavery”) and into preaching (there are many scripture passages that could be useful for this) at various times of the year.
It is my prayer and my hope that educators and pastors will work together to bring awareness to this continuing human tragedy. Together we are a powerful force.
When I discovered this interview of the 15 year old abolitionist Zach Hunter by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, I was STAGGERED by Zach’s claim that there are 27 million slaves in the world today. In order to come to grips with this astounding figure, I immersed myself in learning more by continuing to watch the extensive ABC video archive reports about modern slavery. Although my research was spurred by a 17 year old student’s question in the American literature class I was teaching (see my previous post); this was something I needed to do for myself. I was diving deep. Deeper than I could take my students. I was trying to assimilate the incomprehensible. So, I watched the horrifying news reports of children being sold, abused, and exploited.
According to my rather conservative, prudish standards, most of the videos I watched were not suitable for use in school–even for 11th graders. To deal with my student’s question, I finally decided to show my class the GMA interview with Zach Hunter; but I considered showing another video as well. It tells the story of an 82 year old American woman who has found a fairly simple way to rescue child slaves in Nepal. In fact, she is eradicating slavery in entire villages. Although time constraints prevented me from showing this news report to my class, I find that it continues to inspire me in my personal attempt to make a difference.
Please ignore the irritating commercial at the beginning, and watch the video on the following link. The report is only 3 minutes and 11 seconds, and it is well worth your time. It will also help you understand why the picture of a goat heads this post.
Two years ago, when I was teaching 11th grade English, my students were discussing The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano , a slave narrative. The excerpt we were discussing described the terrible voyage of Equiano to America on a slave ship as a young African captive in the 18th century. One of my 17 year old students blurted out a comment, saying,
“I don’t understand slavery. I mean, how could people be so cruel to one another?”
I spontaneously replied,
“Oh, there has always been slavery. It has existed throughout history. It existed in ancient times. We read about it in the Bible during the time of Moses. We read about it in the New Testament in the writings of St. Paul, and we even see it in the world today. It has never been totally abolished.”
I was rather startled at my own response, and I think I startled my students as well. So that evening, when I got home, I began to investigate modern slavery more thoroughly. I discovered a wealth of information. There are numerous books on the topic. http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Monstrous-Face—Face-Modern-Day/dp/0743290089/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325079106&sr=1-2 But for a quick understanding of the reality, I turned to ABC News online. They had recently spent a week reporting on How to Buy a Child and there were numerous videos posted showing how disturbingly easy it was for one of their reporters to purchase a Haitian girl for less than the cost of a television! (Unfortunately these no longer seem to be available at their website.)
The real prize, however was this video of Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts interviewing a 15 year old teenager named Zach Hunter who has taken up the cause of modern slavery.
Zach said that according to Amnesty International, there are more than 27 million slaves in the world today—more than at any other time in human history! (I have since heard other figures ranging from 27-32 million.) I modified my lesson plans for the next day and decided to show my students this interview with Zach instead. A few days later, I was delighted to learn that our school not only had an Amnesty International Club, but we also had a chapter of Zach’s non-profit organization, Loose Change to Loosen Chains. I encouraged my students to check out these extra-curricular activities, and several chose to do so.
Later in the year, I was able to incorporate this real life issue into our curriculum as we studied the writings of another abolitionist, Henry David Thoreau. For that unit, I asked my students to keep a journal (as Thoreau did); and one of the options they had for a journal reflection was to attend a meeting of the Loose Change to Loosen Chains chapter at our school and write about what they learned from attending.
As a teacher of American literature, I find that students often question the relevance of the literature they are required to study. Sadly, the topic of slavery is not an irrelevant issue in today’s English classroom. But if teachers and students begin to recognize that slavery is a contemporary reality, perhaps it WILL become a blessedly irrelevant topic. I long for that day.