Tag Archives: education

Your Lyrics Will Be Graded

I’m not a stranger to song/singer analysis.  You’ll recall I had a particularly scathing post about John Mayer a while back, and my friend, Liz, analyzed the nuances (or lack thereof) of Taylor Swift’s character.

As some people know, I am currently studying to become a high school English teacher in Texas.  This involves a lot of repetitive reading about how we should probably focus more on engaging students in school, and less on lecturing at them.  Turns out they learn more if they’re emotionally invested.  Who knew?

Anyway, as a fun activity, I decided to grade a couple songs as if they were student essays.  Starting with Katy Perry’s “Firework.”  Click to enlarge!

Firework001

I didn’t bother doing the rest of the song because it’s just “Boom boom boom, even brighter than the moon, moon, moon” repeated a bunch of times.

So the thing is that – while that was fun – I haven’t graded any other lyrics.  I was going to do Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” because no one who can easily shake off negative comments goes on to write an entire song about all the “mean” things that are said about them for the world to hear (Irony!).  But that seemed like low-hanging fruit.  Ol’ Tay-Tay’s already suffered our wrath, as you saw above.

This activity left the subject of education knocking around in my brain.  It feels important to get a few things written down, even if they’re obvious.  At the end, as a thank you for reading my wall of text, I have presented you with a drawing of an Ice Chinchilla, which was commissioned by my friend, Liz.

  1. If the goal of schooling is to increase student knowledge and understanding, then the current model is waaaaay off base.  A fifteen-year-old can memorize all the significant dates related to the American Revolution.  S/he can regurgitate facts onto a test and get a good grade, but that does not mean that s/he understands this conflict.  The student likely has no feelings about the American Revolution one way or the other.  Because s/he has learned that the goal of school is to get A’s, not to understand the content.  Along those lines…
  2. Our methods of assessing students are crap.  We live in a country where C is average, but only A’s mean anything.  That means we are pressuring our students to jump through as many hoops as necessary to get top letter marks.  As I said in point 1, this rarely requires genuine understanding.  Just look at the term “Standardized Test.”  It is literally a test that measures students’ abilities to fit into a mold.  At the beginning of the year, all students start with an A in their classes.  The best thing that can happen for them is for their grade to remain exactly the same.  Most likely what will happen is their grade will drop.  This is expected to motivate them.  All I see is a practice in futility, neatly packaged with buzzwords.  “If you don’t do well here, you won’t get into a good college.”  How about this?  How about every student starts with a zero.  Not an F, mind.  A zero.  As they do assignments, they get points.  At the end of the year, the number of points they have can be translated into a letter grade.  It’s not a perfect system, but you’ll notice with this design, the only direction students can go is up.  Instead of losing, they’ll be working to gain.  Every day, every semester, every class.
  3. It turns out that every person learns in a different way.  This means that a significant portion of “Special Ed” students might not need drugs or a psychological diagnosis.  Maybe all they need is someone to approach teaching in a different way.  It’s hard to cater your teaching methods to suit the needs of a fifty-student class, but we can start by abandoning the “Sit still, shut up, and listen” model.  From where I’m sitting, “Special Ed” is a lovely euphemism for “We’ve given up on you.”  That probably does wonders for kids’ self-esteem.
  4. You’ve heard this all before.  Studies that prove kids aren’t learning in school have been coming out for decades.  Kids aren’t learning.  Kids aren’t motivated.  Kids aren’t supposed to be put through test after standardized test.  It’s common knowledge at this point.  As far as I can tell, we as a country have gone, “Oh, look.  Schools are failing our children.  What a shame,” and then moved back to reading the morning paper or whatever.  Just shrug and move on, America.  Your education system is a mess.  Oh, well!  It happens.  Right?  No!  No, damn it!  I have read paper after paper from people saying we’re in the middle of a “paradigm shift” and “we need school reinvention, not school reform.”  (See writing by Ornstein and Hunkins for more details about school reinvention)  By “paradigm shift” do they mean that about 0.5% of the schools in this country have made changes to the way education is accomplished?  That’s not a shift.  That’s not even a blip on the radar.  So why aren’t we seeing real change?  Well, for one, politicians love using education to boost their numbers.  They throw out buzz words, cite the studies that I’ve been reading for my classes, and promise change.  Then they introduce new standardized tests or cut more music programs.  Meanwhile teachers are left floundering in a system that forces them to dish out education like it’s a punishment.
  5. No more complacence.  Educators need to band together.  Families need to support them.  We need a separation of school and state in a lot of ways, because educational policies are being instated by people who have never stood in a classroom full of bored sixth graders.  As an individual, all I can do is try to beat the system one classroom at a time.  And write ineffectual blog posts about it.  Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do more.  If enough individuals decide to make real changes, maybe it’ll have a ripple effect.

I don’t know.

Here’s a chinchilla.

Ice Chinchilla

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Filed under education, Humor, Language, Music, Politics, reading, writing

The Beauty of Terrible Stories (Part 2)

I guarantee this post isn’t going to make much sense if you don’t read Part 1 (previous post).  So do that.

Also, before we move on to the joys of Supermarket Mania 2, I want to share a TED Talk with you.  It’s one you may have seen, but as it pertains to creativity and education, I feel it is my duty to pass on the message to those who haven’t.  This guy is funny and has an enjoyable accent.  Watch it, please.

Okay so Supermarket Mania 2, by G5 Entertainment (available as an iPhone app, which makes waiting rooms 12% more tolerable).  I’m only going to recommend the sequel, as the first game is a bit buggy.  Don’t worry about missing any of the drama, though!  That’s what this blog post is for!

The plot of Supermarket Mania (the first): A young woman named Nikki goes to work for an obviously evil man named Torg at his obviously evil supermarket.  Because we all know how evil those supermarkets can get.  Torg’s supermarket serves as a training ground for Nikki and her new friend, Wendy, before they are fired (and replaced with EVIL robot workers).  Wendy’s one and only personality trait is that she likes to eat.  She’s not overweight, mind you.  She just likes to eat.  Pretty much everything she says garners a response of, “But Wendy, you just ate!” or, “Wendy, you cow, stop thinking about food.”

Supermarket 3

Anyway, Wendy and Nikki find an old man who wants nothing more than to start his own grocery store that is full of love and wholesomely bland foods.  They do so.  This somehow puts the Evil supermarket out of business.  White people cheer all around.  (There are no people of color in this game.)

The plot of Supermarket Mania 2: Nikki is still running bland supermarkets!  Through her love and compassion (because that’s what people are really looking for in a supermarket) she succeeded in drumming up a loyal clientele.  There’s Old Lady, Regular Type Lady, Mom, Teenager, Girl with Scooter, Yuppie (I swear that’s what they call him), Thief (She doesn’t actually like this guy), and Celebrity.  They all come and go, and everything seems great for Nikki and her ever-growing list of White pals.  Except Torg is still evil!  And he is bent on getting his revenge by doing stupid things like causing traffic jams outside the store and painting the word “SALE” on the window.  Spoiler alert: None of these plans succeed.

But the best scheme by far is that Torg will stroll into the market, wearing a trench coat and a fedora, and use a giant, wooden mallet to break Nikki’s various machines.  It is worth mentioning here that Nikki has a security guard in her employ.  Mr. Blowfist… or Barefist… or Bareknuckle.  Something vaguely obscene.  His job is usually to stop Thief from thieving (Swiper no swiping?), but he’s never around when Torg comes by with his mallet of doom.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist taking a screenshot for this one.  Because sometimes you can hire someone to help you with your various tasks, and those employees will do nothing to stop a man in a trench coat from smashing the juice squeezing machine.  They will watch him do it with a smile on their face.  Look:

Supermarket 1

Do you see it?  Do you see what’s happening here?  Let me help, just in case you’re lost:

Okay, so now you get it.  I suppose Nikki doesn’t pay the woman in the orange dress to stop people from sabotaging the machinery.  Hell, Nikki doesn’t really pay her at all.  She purchased her for $1,200.  One-time fee.  I imagine Orange Dress would politely ask Torg not to crush the machinery if only she were allowed a paycheck or a union-mandated break.

That’s all I’ve got!  We’re going to move on to a more serious subject next time.  Fair warning.

 

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