Monday, May 16, 2016

Perhaps We Should Lay off Buying All Pink Clothes for Little Girls

Russell More has an interesting editorial here in the Salt Lake Tribune giving the religious argument against transgendered bathrooms.  His main point is that he believes God has created each of us to be a certain sex, and we must learn to live gracefully within the sex God means us to be.  While I think there are many problems with that as a rationale for public school policy, he does, I think, make one good observation.

This is it:  the idea that many boys and girls are not interested in, nor comfortable with, traditional gender toys and roles.  Perhaps if we stopped dressing all little girls in pink, and buying them dolls, fewer would think they were really meant to be boys.  And if boys were allowed by their families and culture to be mostly interested in dancing and cooking, fewer would think they were meant to be girls.  Of course, there are true transgendered individuals, and I do believe we must accommodate them as best we can.  I was a teacher for 37 years, and see no problem with transgendered young people using bathrooms they are comfortable in.  All of the ones I knew, without exception, were gentle, timid people.  Impossible to see them as predators.

Reading as a Help for Clumsiness?

The 'Well" blog in the NY Times has an interesting column on clumsiness in children here.  The main idea is that there can be many reason for children acting in an uncoordinated way, and the author, Dr. Klass, gives several good suggestions of steps a parent should take.

I think this is an excellent overview of ways of dealing with an uncoordinated child.  As a teacher for 37 years, I would just add that it might help to find some children's stories about creatures who are clumsy.  You could start by searching
amazon for "clumsy children's books".   I tried that and several good suggestions came up.

With my students, I found that it wasn't the necessarily the most coordinated, or smartest, or best looking children who were the most popular.  Rather, it was the kids who felt all right about themselves, and truly liked and were interested in their classmates.  Some of the experiences necessary for this mindset can come through reading.  Reading makes everything better.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Asking for a Change in your Teenager's School Schedule

The Motherlode column asks here if parents should ever try to get their high school student's schedule changed.  One comment from a teacher said no, absolutely not.  I disagree.

As a high school teacher myself for 35 years, I couldn't disagree more with Kate of PA.  Parents and kids should have no "agency" in their school system?  Who is the system for, anyway?

There are many good reasons why a student should not be in a particular class--wrong level, other students who harass, poor (or abusive) teacher, etc.  Yes, poor teacher.  There are a few teachers out there who should not ever be in front of kids.

If you child has such a teacher, I think it is your responsibility to get her out.  And, believe me, if all of the parents of that teacher's students said, "No way.  Get my child out of that class," the administrators would find a way of getting rid of that teacher.  An emotionally battering teacher can do great harm.  Of course get your kid out, if that's the situation.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

More on the Amazon/Hachette dispute.

The NY Times now has their editorial board writing a piece here accusing Amazon of "bullying tactics" in its contract dispute with Hachette.  The editorial seems to elicit comments from people who don't understand very much about the current state of publishing:

HeyNorris says:  "When good literature is not available where 40 percent of books are sold, the public interest is not served."

Good literature--like the books of James Patterson?  The large publishers publish books they think will sell, period.  Amazon has opened its store to thousands of self-published authors that the Big Five wouldn't touch--many who explore niche subjects or  fiction that doesn't easily fit into current popular categories.

Amazon also gives authors a much bigger share of royalties (70 percent vrs. 17 percent) than big publishers.  The really interesting question is how long mid list writers will continue to subject themselves to the big publishers' confiscatory terms.  Many have already jumped ship and publish independently with Amazon, and other online bookstores.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Amazon Vrs. Hachette

There is an opinion column in the NY Times here that suggests that Amazon is holding up the distribution of Hachette books because Amazon really needs more money from them.  Amazon's rationale has been that they want to keep prices lower for their customers;  the NY Times column theorizes that Amazon needs more money because it is "restlessly expanding."  The column then discusses Germany, where prices on books are allowed to be fixed by the publishers, and suggests that, since Amazon is selling a lot of books in Germany, that model must be okay.  Of course, the courts in the U.S. have called that price-fixing, and disallowed it.   Then the Times article throws in an image of "a white room filled with empty bookshelves" as an example of Nazi terrorism.

The image of book-burning Nazi Germany is supposed to let the reader infer--I imagine--that Amazon's tactics will somehow result in rooms full of empty bookcases.  Really, using an image like that is the worst kind of sensationalist journalism.

The reality is that Amazon has brought the opportunity to publish to thousands of authors that establishment publishing companies have turned their backs on.  It has also brought thousands of very low-priced e-books (for free or $0.99) to readers who can't afford the high prices demanded by New York publishers. It has, almost single-handily, created a huge literary marketplace of books. 

Personally, I think what's happening now in publishing is the most exciting thing since the invention of the printing press.

Helping Children Overcome Disabilities

A parenting blog in the NY Times here suggests that talking to children with disabilities, and encouraging them to practice, might help them overcome their problems.

 I like how Ms. Wheeler emphasizes that when you have trouble with a skill, you just need to practice more.  When I was teaching, many students would say to me that they were dyslexic, and so couldn't read.  I managed to show many of them that being dyslexic meant they needed to read more, and we worked very hard to find books they could enjoy.  Once they started to enjoy reading, their skills rapidly improved. 

It's important to keep in mind that some skills, like reading, are so necessary that a way has to be found to help students enjoy it so they'll practice.  Social skills fall into this area as well.  The ability to play sports?  Not so critical, as long as kids are helped to enjoy moving around.

Reading Causes Brain Changes

A parenting blog in the New York Times has an article here describing the changes in the brain that reading can cause in dyslectic  children.  The point of the article was that children with reading problems should be given more help and tutoring.

The real takeaway should be that children who are doing little reading, or who start reading late, should be given whatever kind of reading they are willing to do:  comic books, series books, graphic novels--whatever they will read.

I taught in an inner-city Catholic school and found that--when I stocked my room with comics and magazines and high-interest paperback, and told my poor readers just to sit and read--they gained an average of 18 months of reading ability for every 6 months I had them in that program.  In a regular class, they had been gaining about 3 months of skills every 6 months.

While one-on-one intensive tutoring may help, there is no substitute for very high-interest reading material.  And once a kid becomes hooked on reading, his reading scores soar, and he will become a lifelong reader.