Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dear Teacher Who Won't Teach Evolution in Science

I subbed a science class yesterday that didn't have lesson plans, I designed a lesson using Blue Planet episode on "The Deep" ocean to teach students about how environmental conditions of the deep ocean and animal adaptations of the organisms living there interact. Today when I debriefed the teacher on what I did they saw the "Adaptations" notes on the white board and said, "Oh no, you didn't talk about evolution in my class did you? I don't want no law suit, I don't even touch on evolution or adaptation."

WHAT THE FUDGE! Are you kidding me? Science teachers not teaching Evolution or natural selection or adaptations? That's like teaching algebra but not teaching kids how to count to 10, its fundamental to biological understanding. Not only that our School District Curriculum and the Washington State Standards require it.

So I wrote this email, but never sent it, because even though I am a staunch Atheist and a firm believer that this type of bullshit needs to stop immediately, I am in the process of applying for jobs and don't want a mess on my hands. So here is the un-sent email.

Dear Teacher Who Won't Teach Evolution in Science,

You said something this morning that kind of perplexed me about not teaching evolution or adaptation. So I checked to see what our school district and state say about teaching evolution, natural selection, and adaptation.

Here's what I found. Not only is it ok, it is part of our district curriculum and the state science standards. So although the fear of a lawsuit from a parent is there, you have your school districts go ahead as well as the state requirement to cover the material. Legally you would be safe if you taught it, and you should.

Teaching evolution in school is really important regardless of people's religious affiliations, school is a secular institution and science and inquiry and biology and evolution are secular institutions continually moving toward teaching proven, evidence based, curriculum and theories.

Also, the evolutionary theory of adaptation by natural selection can and does explain how life has come into being the way it is on this planet and to deprive students of this understanding of the fundamental roots of life's functions and manifestations is irresponsible and unfair to them as well as a major hinderance to their future contributions to the human condition on this planet.

Please consider these standards when planning your curriculum next year.

Tacoma 6th Grade Science Curriculum
Fall 6th grade
Diversity of Life

Students observe and maintain protists, plants and animals in the classroom and study their characteristic features. The study progresses from macroscopic to microscopic observation to discover the fundamental unit of life, the cell. Students then investigate organism subsystems and behaviors, ****and consider their diversity of adaptive structures and strategies.****

Fall 7th Grade
Populations and Ecosystem

Students raise populations of organisms to discover population dynamics in a range of conditions. Reproduction, heredity and **** natural selection are explored as ways to understand both the similarity and the variation within and between organisms.****

State Standards

6-8 LS3A
++++The scientific theory of evolution underlies the study of biology and explains both the diversity of life on Earth and similarities of all organisms at the chemical, cellular, and molecular level. Evolution is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. Explain and provide evidence of how biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species on Earth today.++++

6-8 LS3E
++++Adaptations are physical or behavioral changes that are inherited and enhance the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. Give an example of a plant or animal adaptation that would confer a survival and reproductive advantage during a given environmental change.++++

6-8 LS3F
Extinction occurs when the environment changes and the ++++adaptive characteristics of a species, including its behaviors, are insufficient to allow its survival.++++ Given an ecosystem, predict which organisms are most likely to disappear from that environment when the environment changes in specific ways.

6-8 LS3G
++++Evidence for evolution includes similarities among anatomical and cell structures, and patterns of development make it possible to infer degree of relatedness among organisms. Infer the degree of relatedness of two species, given diagrams of anatomical features of the two species (e.g., chicken wing, whale flipper, human hand, bee leg).++++

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Laid Off and then Laid On

After the Title 1 money ran out last week they informed me at X Middle School I would be getting laid off two weeks before school was out, leaving my little devil angel's to return back to from whence they came and me with two weeks of subbing at the end of the year. But magically, once the school and the schedulers realized what a disaster it would be to re-release my little kiddos into the population of regular classes what a catastrophe they would have one their hands. Then they magically "found" more funding and informed me that I could stay on till the end of the year. Yes I want to see my darling 8th graders off into the pre-high school sunset but also I realized what a challenging last two weeks it would be with apathy at an all time high at XMS.

Other than that things have been good. Hal and I have been working our asses off in the yard planting our first urban Garden. Right now we have manufactured garden space out of every nook and cranny of the yard and have managed to plant 30 sunflower plants, 8 beets, 6 cucumber hills, to pumpkin hills, two rows of carrots, two rows of spring onions, about 40 sweet onions, ten potatoes, 6 corn, 6 strawberries, two raspberries, grapes, blueberries, and have plans for peas and leafy greens soon to follow. The soul turned out to be just fine and with a little love and care we've got ourselves an impressive first garden effort. Urban gardening is awesome, it forces you to be resourceful, imaginitive and crafty with the difficult space you are given to work with. Pictures and updates on garden life to come.

We're all settling into a nice little life just in time for summer to come and blast the walls of routine.

SO much summer coming.

Sasquatch at the Gorge in two weeks with a gang full of crazy people in a RV.
Bu Crew Men's Campout at the Gorge with all the class of 2004 bro's friends
4th of July at the rents who's coming?.
String Cheese Incident at Horning's Hideout Oregon with the usual summer deviants
Camp Conco Family Campout in Eastern Washington with the fam and cousins
Possibly saturday night of Meltdown
Playing Big Bottom fest near Packwood in the white pass area
then the school starts up again!

Have a nice week y'all

Monday, May 3, 2010

Goodbye Whitman Co., Benjamins, Precious People, Too Many Things, Pot Bellies, Flipping Kids Over, ....Choice.

I suppose after a long blog drought I would have something important to say. But alas I don't, thus the lack of blogging. I mean there are a lot of things going on to write about but I'm so busy living them and trying to keep up with life that writing it down seems impossible. Some pretty pretty pretty big things have been happening lately. I recently defeated a demon that has been clawing at my back for 5 years. The freedom of this beast is a little overwhelming and a bit scary because I forgot what it was like to live without always looking over your shoulder. I still do sometimes.

New people have been swirling in and out of my life, so fast they're like whispy whisps of whispers in the days and nights. I can make out the forms of all these new people but I don't ever seem to be able to grasp them as the float by. A few constants remain, family life is uneasy but positive, its seems like the peaceful moments in our family come from everyone knowing that everyone else is finally doing fine, if even for a day, but hopefully more. Those moments seem so difficult to grasp sometimes. So many things to balance. Family relationships, romantic relationships, friendship, career relationships, finances, leisure, soul searching, playing music, appreciating music, physical fitness, mental fitness and regulating external chemical intake.

Things that are a constant nag lately are worries of money. Stupid stupid money that makes the mice run the race. It buys many things, like concert tickets, and power bills, and new microphones, and things and more things and then some things. And whats worse I want these things. I want stuff now, how did that happen, I used to pride myself on only a few things, my ukulele Bertha, my woven yarn-billed hat from a friend in Australia, my Subaru Warrior, and a 1982 WSU hooded sweatshirt worn nearly through from love. Now I have many things, and want more. Is it possible that America has its hooks in me?

Also, I'm getting kinda fat. No long walks on the tundra and no teaching PE, and no snowmobile airport pick ups along with lower 48 restaurant food have made old Kale a little pot belly. Its like a sign of laziness. My daily reminder that I should be doing better to take care of myself, but monday comes and its back to the routine. Kale-self goes back on the burner for sheer convenience. So many other things to take care of besides the gut. I can only hope that the summer outdoors doing manual labor will get me back to bad ass I can be.

And work, oh work. Not teaching. Not school. Not learning. WORK. I've had successes. I've had shining moments in teaching. I'm making a difference. But the atmosphere at my school is pretty desperate and negative and it works its way into your bones by the end of the day. I can't wait for summer simply because I don't know how many more months of negativity I can stand.

I was telling my roomate Kyle about something I've realized at school. The truest teaching moments for me, the reason that keeps teachers going, isn't those shining glimmers of a lightbulb flashing in the brain of a young learner, but the lazer beams of light that come out of a kid when the kid FLIPS. And flip you say, what is flipping a kid?
Well, flipping a kid has become my passion and my art at work. Its a weird theory, but its worked many times for me and I'm hoping to continue to hone it forever. When you see a kid that has been shit on by life, and I mean elephant shit on, stuff you and I never had to go through, and they've dealt with in whatever way was most effective, they've lashed out like a snake in a corner and, or shut down like a rock, or got wasted to make it go away, and there is simply no granules of a hopeful life left in them, you simply have to infect them with what you got, real logical positivity towards the awesome.

Most kids in this situation have lost the ability to find the forest from the shit trees. This is where logic, planning and rational thought are the most amazing with kids. If you sit down day after day and help the kid plan on getting out of shit, then eventually one day the kid will pull back the last branch of the shit forest and gaze into the vast golden valley of realizing they can take care of themselves and even have a pretty ok life. It takes patience, careful character study, and thinking out loud for the kid so that they can start to see how a good decision would like in the situation they just fucked up.

I'll tell you what doesn't help these kids. Kicking them out of class for sagging their pants, chewing gum or drinking a gatorade. I'll tell you what doesn't help these kids, silent rooms of rows and paper. Sometimes the best lessons and classes are the ones that are spontaneous and family building. An, argument, a realization, you just stop the class and point out logically and realistically what happened or whats actually going on and every can all see and agree. If you can string together enough moments where your kids have all shared the same thought then they can truly know how similar we all are and let theirselves come out and relax.

When you see that dark hollow of a kids eye light up as they realize for the first time they're not a failure and that they actually want to and can get better, it is the moment they flip. A flipped student is like a person who wants to get sober for the first time. They might stumble and fall along the way, but their ship is righted and going in the correct direction. And to be clear, I don't mean that they're going in the Anglo-Saxon Religious Upstanding route, they're going on a route that at least they can choose. Choice and ultimate choices is the meaning of freedom (and the burden). But when you have no choices and no where to turn, there are no choices but simply mazes.

Am I making the right choices myself? Am I free finally? Sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it. Other times I truly fly.
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