Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Routine

The routine..

Funny Cartoon Character: Bartley Tell


Bartley Tell is the lesser known son of William Tell and younger brother of Walter Tell. As the story goes…..in order to keep from getting executed, William Tell, who was an expert marksman was forced to shoot an apple that sat squarely on top of his son Walters head. Well….as many know, William split the apple in two without incident and father and son lived a full life.

The part of the story that predates this famous tale is how did William gain such confidence with the cross-bow? Rumors had been floating around about a young man in town that walked around with an arrow clean through his head always complaining of a splinter and sometimes of a massive headache but seemed unaware of the cause even though he had been told by the town doctor on multiple occasions why he might be experiencing these problems.

It was as though the words fell upon deaf ears because the very next day Bartley would be out walking the streets of the town complaining again seemingly without any clue as to the previous day’s conversation. After a while the doctor made the determination that the arrow that was lodged in Bartley’s skull had somehow damaged the part of the brain that holds long term memory.

The doctor was speaking to a friend at the local pub about Bartley’s curious injury. At the same time in the same pub a local man was talking about Williams Tell's tale that had transpired the previous day and after many pints of beer and a lot of jovial conversation the two stories collided and it somehow was determined that Bartley was Williams other son who was used as practice from time to time and that was how William had become so accurate with the cross-bow.

This story is of course completely fictitious and if anyone does somehow find the need to believe it…..I would like to offer up some incredibly valuable swamp land at a very discounted price….I will even go so far as to say that half of the proceeds of the sale will go to the completely fictitious Bartley relief fund. A fund dedicated to helping those in need of headache relief with discounted Ibuprofen.

Want to Improve the Schools? Just Ask.

Here's my Big Honking Plan to improve education:

1. Go find great schools. Schools where the students are happy and challenged, the parents are thrilled, the teachers are vibrant, the administration is effective. People are clamoring to get houses and apartments in the area.

2. Ask everyone involved in those schools what they do and how they work.

3. Listen.

Seriously.

How do you determine which schools are the great ones?

Ask.

Don't test, don't chart, don't measure, just go talk to the people in the communities. They will tell you.

I bet that once this is done ten or twenty or a hundred or a thousand times, patterns will emerge.

Here's my bet on what the patterns are:

- Teachers and Specialists are collaborating, sharing resources and ideas across classes and disciplines and among grade levels
- Parents are supportive and involved as much as they can be
- The community at large is supportive
- The curriculum is challenging, varied and enjoyable
- The students are trying their best much of the time

Here's another bet I'll make about the patterns you would see:

- Some things don't go well, arguments happen, disagreements occur. Students fail tests. Homework gets lost. Kids fall down on the playground. Kids get sick. Parents make mistakes. Teachers make mistakes. Administrators make mistakes.
- Each school year or term is very different. Sometimes kids don't blend well. Sometimes student and teacher personalities don't match up. People are different.
BUT
- These things are handled as part of the education process, with care, and attention, and support.

Students are supposed to make mistakes. How do you know they are expanding their knowledge if they aren't reaching far enough to make a mistake or have an unexpected result? I have no idea.

So there you have it. My plan to improve education. Go and ask. Ask teachers how they structure their day. Ask parents what they do and how they talk to their kids when they get home from work or school. Ask students what their day is like and what they enjoy most. Ask adminstrators how they interact with the students and parents and teachers. Ask what everyone does when there is a problem.

And then, don't make charts or crunch numbers, just listen.

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