Friday, June 27, 2008

Frederick Douglass: The Means to a County

Let me set the stage for you…..it’s 1870. Chaos reigns in in Georgia. The Federal govenrment is attepting the third time to reconstruct the ex-Confederate state.

From Georgia on My Mind….. “What you have to realize at this point is the Georgia General Assembly was not exactly controlled by folks who acted or thought like a large majority of Georgians at the time. Merton Coulter, author of Georgia: A Short History (1947) advises much of the General Assembly during Reconstruction was comprised of northern adventurers better known as carpetbaggers, a group known as scalawags (Georgians with pro-Union sentiments), illiterate Negros (the majority of which were merely manipulated yes-men to the carpetbaggers), and a few conservative Georgians. The New Georgia Encyclopedia article regarding Reconstruction in Georgia states, in January 1870, Alfred H. Terry, the third and final commanding general of the District of Georgia, conducted “Terry’s Purge.” He removed the General Assembly’s ex-Confederates, replaced them with the Republican runners-up, and then reinstated the expelled black legislators, thus creating a heavy Republican majority in the legislature.

From this chaos comes a new Georgia County…..A county known in the legislative act as Douglass County.

Was it truly named for Frederick Douglass or was there a scheme afoot? Head on over to my post titled The Skinny on How Skint Chestnut Became Douglasville...Or How Douglas County Lost Its "S" to find out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Carnegie Libraries: 13 Things

1. Andrew Carnegie was a originally from Scotland, but made millions in America from the steel industry during the late 1800s.

2. He used his millions for philanthropy and education funding institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and many other worthwhile endeavors.

3. Last year Forbes estimated his fortune at $298.3 BILLION dollars based on 2007 dollars. Carnegie's best known quote regarding his wealth was something along the lines that he spent the first half of his life making his fortune, and the second half giving it all away.

4. Like any historical figure there are some aspects of his life that bear scrutiny. Carnegie has been classified as a robber baron and rightly so, but his philanthropic efforts should be recognized as well.

5. More than 2,500 libraries were built with Carnegie’s money from locations in the United States, Europe, and even Fiji.

6. U.S. towns that were lucky enough to snag the funds for a Carnegie library were given the gift of great architecture and access to great books. Generally, each library was unique to its local with regard to design. Many styles include the Beaux-Arts, Italian Renaissance, Baroque, Classical Revivial, and Spanish Colonial.

7. Each community was able to choose their own style and had contol over the building, however, there are many features to each and every library that became commonplace. Most of the Carnegie libraries were entered via a main entrance with a staircase symbolizing the person’s choice to elevate by learning. A lampost could also be found outside most libraries symbolizing enlightenment.

8. Why libraries? Carnegie could have given his money for many worthwhile causes, and he did, but libraries and the love of reading remained at the top of the philanthropist’s list. This is mainly due to his own experiences as an immigrant. He credited books and his self-education as one of the ingredients to his success in business.

9. Carnegie’s name rarely appeared on the libraries, but there were usually other mottos and sayings carved into the buildings. Most of the doorways were topped with the saying, “Let there be light.”


10. “The Carnegie Forumla” was the foundation most of the libraries were built upon. The formula applied for each library grant stated each community had to demonstrate their need for a public library, they had to provide the building site, and the town had to anually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation (at the time this was generally $2.00 per person residing in the community).

11. There were some U.S. communities that actually refused to ask Carnegie for a library grant even though they were rarely refused. This was due to the many questionable business practices and his status as a Robber Baron.

12. Don’t you just love wandering around a library? It didn’t used to be that way. The stacks were closed and you had to have a topic in mind in order to get your hands on a book since the librarian was the one who removed books from the shelves. Carnegie libraries stopped this practice. The stacks were open and patrons were free to explore.

13. Today many Carnegie libraries are gone forever to the wrecking ball, but many other locations are still operating libraries or have been converted to museums, community centers, office buildings, and some are even residences.

Over at Georgia on My Mind I’ve posted references to two of Atlanta’s Carnegie libraries. One is gone forever, yet a part of it will remain part of the landscape for some time to come. Another location is no longer a library…..Today, its unique use fits into the Atlanta neighborhood that passionately claims it.

The above pictures are all various Carnegie libraries.

Great resources to learn more about Carnegie libraries can be found here, here, and here.
You can find more bloggers participating in Thursday Thirteen here

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Place That Makes You Think


This is my husband. He has just walked down the steps of the Jefferson Memorial and is looking out across to the Washington Memorial. How can you visit Washington D.C. and not be reduced many times to moments of reflection? This place makes you think about the ones that came before us and how important it is to preserve their dream.

You can find other blogs participating in Wordless Wednesday here.

Also the Education Carnival (including a post of mine) is up over at Where's the Sun?

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Monday, June 23, 2008

It's the Teachers, Stupid!

As many of you know I began another blog sometime ago that is focused solely on my homestate of Georgia and blogs authored by folks from the Peach State. Recently the 38th Carnival for Georgia Bloggers posted at Georgia on My Mind, and one post in particular stood out for me on a personal level.

Ethan over at Never Clever Whatsoever has just completed the 8th grade and has just survived Georgia’s mandated CRCT testing. While many education-types have opined their opinion regarding why approximately 70% of Georgia’s sixth and seventh graders failed the social studies section Ethan has articulated in his words another rant about Georgia's CRCT Scores that is in strong contrast to the same educrat excuse of, “Well, we rolled out these new standards…..”

I left two rather long comments for Ethan, and he decided others should see our conversation, so he posted replies to my first and second comments where he recreates my comments and his responses.

I strongly encourage educators to take a moment and head over there and let Ethan know what you think.

While I have never been one to outwardly criticize a colleague regarding his or her teaching style I cannot fathom an 8th grade student taking the CRCT and not knowing why the names Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson are attached to one of the busiest airports in the world!

Yes, as I mentioned in my comments there are many, many reasons why students would do poorly on an assessment, but Ethan doesn’t appear to be the kind of student we would dread to have in our classrooms.

The 8th grade Georgia standards that were in effect during Ethan’s school year can be found here. Standard number SS8H10 states the student will evaluate key post-WWII development of Georgia from 1945 through 1970 with element b. going a bit futher to state explain how the development of Atlanta, including the roles of mayors William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen, Jr., and major league sports, contributed to the growth of Georgia. State standard SS8H11 states the student will evaluate the role of Georgia in the modern civil rights era with element b mentioning the election of Maynard Jackson as mayor of Atlanta. Gee, isn’t that clear as a bell? Wouldn’t these men and their actions be at the forefront of your lessons regarding this time period?

There it is…..current standards every 8th teacher should have in their possession and mentioned by name are two individuals students should know. If that’s not enough to convince a teacher to mention these two men state standard SS8G2 mentions the role of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and its impact on the state’s economy. Wouldn't this standard be a great opportunity to reinforce who Hartsfield and Jackson were?

Since the 1960s and 70s are usually taught later in the year it would be easy to say that Ethan’s teacher just simply ran out of time. We all do that, and we all say that’s the reason students did poorly on a state test, but Ethan also brought up the name Mary Musgrove in Georgia history, and she would have been taught early in the year and yes…..the standard involved (SS8H2a) mentions her by name and asks the student to explain her importance.

Ethan’s experience bothers me greatly. While we as educators can sit around the table and plan units and lessons, while we state we have an understanding of the standards and have included all of them in our plans, and while we have the standards clearly referenced in our plan books for any observer to check off when they stop by the classroom clearly some of us are walking the walk, but not talking the talk. Now I can understand a colleague blowing off things like various required teaching strategies from time to time, but blowing off the standards where it is very clear what students need to know for that grade level I can't even fathom. Aren't the standards the foundation of every lesson? Don't we start with the standards?

Clearly…when the door is closed something else is going on, and it’s not teaching the standards. What’s it going to take? Weekly visits to the classroom to listen to lessons, to interview the students, to actually hand some teachers a scripted lesson plan to make sure the standards are taught?

My title is a bit harsh. I know there are a myriad number of reasons why the damn tests don't work, but here we have a student who knows he wasn't taught specific key material to the subject matter, and there simply is no excuse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Wordless of Sorts: Negro with a Hat


Last Fall I posted an image of finely dressed men and allowed readers to guess who the man on right was. Later I posted an explantion regarding the very flamboyant Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.

The image posted above is one I did not use in the original postings.

Recently I became aware of a new book called Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey by Colin Grant.
A review at The New Yorker states, In 1914, on a ship between Jamaica and England, an impoverished twenty-six-year-old named Marcus Garvey had what he later called a vision of "a new world of black men." Six years later, he rode through Harlem in regal robes and a plumed bicorne, and was proclaimed the Provisional President of Africa before a crowd of twenty-five thousand in Madison Square Garden. For a short, spectacular time, before his movement collapsed under the weight of its ambitions and schemes (a mail-fraud conviction resulted in exile in London), Garvey’s call for a transnational union of black people electrified crowds around the world—alarming J. Edgar Hoover and maddening W. E. B. Du Bois, who recoiled at Garvey’s separatism and his theatrics, wondering if he was "a lunatic or a traitor." (Garvey called Du Bois a "lazy dependant mulatto.") Grant’s biography ably captures the Garvey moment, although, perhaps wisely, he leaves the many contradictions in Garvey’s character unresolved.


Another review from The New York Times can be found here.

Garvey is an interesting character in Black history many students never, NEVER hear about, and I’m not really sure why not…..I mean look at the cover of Mr. Grant’s book. How intriguing!

What student wouldn’t want to know more about the guy in the Captain Crunch hat?

Run…don’t walk to pick up a copy of Colin Grant’s book so you too can add Marcus Garvey to your parade of interesting historical figures.


And don’t forget to visit other blogs participating in Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Cure or a Placebo?

A recent CBS Evening News report highlighted a program used in the Dallas school system that provides a GPS device to chronically truant kids.

Prior to beginning a pilot program at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas, the student profiled in the report had missed 160 school days out of 185.

Yes, it’s very clear the Dallas school system needed a program to enforce the school attendance laws which exist in every area of our country ( I hope), but it is amazing to me that prior to this program a student could get to the point that they could miss that many days which no penalty other than failing their classess. Once the student got to 5, 10, 15, 20 absences was it just ignored?

I do agree with Byan Adams High School Principal Cynthia Goodsell when she states, “We’re [the school system and school employees] accountable whether they show up or not, we’re accountable for the graduation rate, the attendance. If they’re not here, we can’t teach them and we’re accountable for the coursework.”

The story also reminds us when there high dropout rates exist school districts loose money….the Dallas school district in the story loses as much as $10 million dollars a year because they have the highest dropout rate in Texas.

While the GPS program may be working the Dallas area to curb truancy, and I am a rabid supporter for all school systems linking up with the court system to enforce school attendance laws, there’s something terribly, terribly wrong about the whole picture painted here.

True, the courts do become involved when students skip school and the student highlighted in the story only received his GPS device due to a court order, but are the true symptoms being addressed?

I say no, and so do many of the comments left once this story was filed.

One comment says it best, “Simple, truant children, those who are routinely late or absent, come from dysfunctional homes. Those homes in my experience are lead by caregivers who are more concerned about their own pleasures and convenience than the welfare of their children. Some may say that this is an unkind assessment. My response to them is simple, visit these homes and you will see that this is not an aberration. While some caregivers have a difficult time because of poverty, work schedules or transitioning to a single parent household; the majority simply refuse to exercise self control or basic order in their homes."

This same comment continued, “…and this assessment is supported by various national studies. Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education have found that child neglect and family disorganization are major factors in truancy. The OJJDP also found that “Truancy has been clearly identified as one of the early warning signs of students headed for potential delinquent activity, social isolation, or educational failure via suspension, expulsion, or dropping out.”

Another person stated, “This is stupid. PARENTS READ THIS: If you think your child needs to have a monitoring device to make sure they are going to school, then you are pathetic parents and should have your children taken away. This is a parenting issue and nothing else. It is our job to ensure our children get a good education and not the governments…Parents that allow this are worthless parents and shouldn''t even have kids. Turn off the game consoles, computers and televisions and stop being lazy parents and take control of the lives that are supposed to be the most precious in your life right now. Quit depending on drugs, and government control in raising your children.”

Unfortunately as we continue to try and solve our education woes we will continue to blame the school, blame the teacher, blame the inept administrator, blame the violence and peer pressure, blame boring teaching methods, blame poverty, and many other reasons why kids are truant.

Our legislators are more willing to compile a long list of situations for blame that contains many of the symptoms of the problem, but are unwilling to point the finger where it really belongs. Our career politicans are more willing to lead us down the road of empty speeches that merely end in cul-de-sacs of platitudes and buzz words than real finger pointing and solutions.

Why?

It’s easier to blame the education system for truancy issues. It’s easier to tie quick fixes for the problem (let’s just get the numbers down so things will look nice) to NCLB and federal funding.

It’s easier, but until we point the finger where it truly belongs and society begins to look down its nose at those individuals in our society who continually treat their children as accesssories we will continue to have the truant students, violent students, and students and parents who firmly believe consequences don’t apply to them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From the Top!

Mister Teacher over at Learn Me Good was kind enough to post this week’s Education Carnival for us. Head on over and enjoy all of the various postings from some of the best Edubloggers found online today.

Speaking of the top Edubloggers….Over at Dangerously Irrelevant, Scott McLead provides the top 50 P-12 education blogs. Head over to Scott’s post to see how the list was compiled….and check some of these great blogs.

There’s one blog on the list you might recognize…..this one!

1. apophenia
2. Weblogg-ed
3. Joanne Jacobs
4. Stephen’s Web
5. Panda’s Thumb
6. 2¢ Worth
7. Cool Cat Teacher Blog
8. Moving at the Speed of Creativity
9. Ewan MacIntosh’s edu.blogs.com
10. Students 2.0
11. Dangerously Irrelevant
12. The Fischbowl
13. Larry Ferlazzo’s Website of the Day
14. Beyond School
15. EdTechTalk
16. The Thinking Stick
17. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub
18. CogDogBlog
19. Angela Maiers
20. Ideas and Thoughts from an EdTech
21. Techlearning blog
22. elearnspace
23. dy/dan
24. Around the Corner
25. Practical Theory
26. Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy
27. Steve Hargadon
28. Half an Hour
29. k12 Online Conference
30. Mobile Technology in TAFE
31. blog of proximal development
32. HeyJude
33. Blue Skunk
34. The Education Wonks
35. Drape’s Takes
36. always learning
37. The Learning Circuits Blog
38. Remote Access
39. PBS Teachers . Learning.now
40. Eduwonkette
41. So You Want To Teach?
42. Eduwonk
43. Teach42
44. History Is Elementary
45. LeaderTalk
46. Infinite Thinking Machine
47. Creating Lifelong Learners
48. AssortedStuff
49. Connectivism Blog
50. think:lab
51. O’DonnellWeb
52. iterating toward openness
53. Teaching Generation Z
54. Generation YES Blog

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Education Stance...Education Dance

First and foremost I’m a taxpayer, so how my tax dollar is used to provide our nation’s children the best possible public education is important to me. Next, I’m a parent. I want the best education I can get for my child. Finally, I’m an educator. Decisions made at the Federal and State level effects my job and my students.

While there are many issues being discussed between the presidential candidates, education is one the more important issues for me. The thing that gets me hot under the collar the most is the dance that is played out during each and every election cycle be it a presidential election, an election involving lawmakers, or my local school board.

It seems like they will promise you the Moon for your vote, doesn’t it?

I thought I’d take a few minutes to investigate what Barack Obama and John McCain are saying about the issue of education.

What are they promising us?

From an ESchool News article published this week, Jeanne Century, director of science research at the University of Chicago's Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, said Illinois Sen. Obama would push for school systems to bring broadband internet access into all K-12 schools. Obama would oppose any system that tied "teacher bonuses to student scores," Century said, but would back programs that rewarded educators for becoming highly qualified educators.

Century [also] said Obama would support more class time for social studies, art, physical education, and science—four areas that have been greatly reduced or eliminated at K-12 schools since NCLB was enacted in 2002. The law requires every school in the country to be 100-percent proficient in math and reading by the 2013-14 academic year—a goal some educators say is unlikely, if not impossible.

Over at BarackObama.com you can find information stating Obama believes that we must equip poor and struggling districts, both rural and urban, with the support and resources they need to provide disadvantaged students with an opportunity to reach their full potential. Too often, our leaders present this issue as an either - or debate, divided between giving our schools more funding, or demanding more accountability. Obama believes that we have to do both, and has offered innovative ideas to break through the political stalemate in Washington.

Obama’s plan for education provides critical support for young children and their parents in a plan titled “Zero to Five”. The plan will be promoted by Early Learning Challenge Grants to help all states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school. Early Head Start would quadruple under an Obama administration, and he promises affordable and high-quality child care to ease the burden on working families.

Obama’s biggest problem with No Child Left Behind was the funding mess it caused, and he promises reforms that will fully fund the requirements of the law. He’s against the current “teach the test” culture found in many school systems, and promises to improve the assessments. NCLB’s accountability system would also be reformed under an Obama administration so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

Obama calls for more qualified teachers who are proficient in math and science. He wants to provide funding for school districts to come up with intervention strategies to address the drop-out crisis, fund more afterschool programs, and summer learning opportunities. Let’s not forget College Outreach Programs, more support for English Language Learners, the creation of Teacher Service Scholarships and all schools of education must be accredited. The website also mentions Teacher Residency Programs, teacher mentoring programs, and incentives to provide more common planning time for teachers. He wants new and innovative ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them.

Over at the NEA's blog, EdNotes, Cynthia Kopkowski confirms what is said in the EschoolNews article regarding teacher pay. Kopkowski advises when asked about merit pay, Century said Obama is "against traditional merit pay that ties individual teacher pay to student outcome." He wants to collaborate with teacher organizations and school districts to come up with alternatives, such as paying teachers for being leaders or mentors, or attaining additional education that displays deeper knowledge of their subject area.

There’s much, much more outlined over at Obama’s site. So much more it boggles the mind, and make me wonder…..how could we possibly pay for all of it?

A November USA Today article advises Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama [has] laid out a plan to spend $18 billion on early childhood education, dropout prevention and teacher incentives. His plan also touches on a hot-button pay issue on which he differs with education unions.To pay for his education program, Obama would eliminate tax-deductibility of CEO pay by corporations and delay NASA's program to return to the moon and then journey to Mars."We're not going to have the engineers and the scientists to continue space exploration if we don't have kids who are able to read, write and compute," Obama said.

The same ESchoolNews.org article I referred to above also mentions John McCain’s views on education. Lisa Graham Keegan, a former lawmaker and superintendent of public instruction in Sen. McCain's home state of Arizona, said that while school leaders struggle with shrinking operating budgets and teacher shortages, technology could supplement educators' daily lessons. She added that qualified teachers could never be replaced by advanced classroom technology. We could potentially have a perfect storm of success here," said Graham Keegan, who has worked with McCain since his 2000 presidential bid. "You can enhance what a teacher does with technology." Has not yet released his stance on classroom technology Century said school officials should encourage students at all grade levels to use the web to research and supplement reading assignments and daily homework "These are skills about problem solving," she said.

Regarding pay for educators McCain supports a pay-for-performance inventive model per Graham Keegan, but feels paying teachers extra according to data from test results would be the only reliable method to reward educators who stood out among their peers. Graham Keegan continues by stating McCain's education stances would "violate existing policies and will offend certain groups," adding that he was skeptical of teacher unions' "one-size-fits-all" contracts that provided little flexibility for school districts.


Over at the NEA's blog, EdNotes, Cynthia Kopkowski states Keegan Graham advised McCain favors an "innovative compensation system" that rewards teachers "for classroom excellence." But she would not specify if that meant student test scores. Stakeholders would have to define what classroom excellence meant, she said.

From JohnMcCain.com, McCain states that Public education should be defined as one in which our public support for a child's education follows that child into the school the parent chooses. The school is charged with the responsibility of educating the child, and must have the resources and management authority to deliver on that responsibility. They must also report to the parents and the public on their progress. The deplorable status of preparation for our children, particularly in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world, does not allow us the luxury of eliminating options in our educational repertoire. John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.

With regards to standards, McCain believes that we can longer accept low standards for some students and high standards for others. John McCain believes our schools can and should compete to be the most innovative, flexible and student-centered - not safe havens for the uninspired and unaccountable. He believes we should let them compete for the most effective, character-building teachers, hire them, and reward them.If a school will not change, the students should be able to change schools. John McCain believes parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children. He finds it beyond hypocritical that many of those who would refuse to allow public school parents to choose their child's school would never agree to force their own children into a school that did not work or was unsafe. They can make another choice. John McCain believes that is a fundamental and essential right we should honor for all parents.

John McCain will place parents and children at the center of the education process, empowering parents by greatly expanding the ability of parents to choose among schools for their children. He believes all federal financial support must be predicated on providing parents the ability to move their children, and the dollars associated with them, from failing schools.
Plainly stated…McCain supports vouchers.

At OntheIssues.org John McCain states he is not in favor of nationally imposed standards or federal funding strings. Rather than have Federal mandates McCain would rather see state and local education authorities in charge of developing and enforcing high academic standards. By linking Federal education dollars to testing McCain argues we are in fact penalizing students and causing states to spend more money on federally imposed bureaucratic requirements – money that would be better spent in the classroom. McCain would like to see education funding money sent directly to the classroom rather than having it siphoned off by the Feds and state agencies.

No matter the outcome of the election each candidate will receive some of their “wants” for education, but not all of them. No matter the outcome of the election changes are in the wind...changes that will necessitate planning, rolling out, buying in, and don't forget the complaining and naysayers. No matter the outcome of the election classroom educators and students will be caught in the middle.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again……as long as education remains a political football, we tax payers, we parents, we educators will continue to be victims of the “stance dance," and quite frankly my toes have already been stepped on enough.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Gliding Into D-Day

Yesterday the alarm went off, the television popped onto the local news, and my husband rolled over to say…..”You know D-Day is tomorrow, don’t you?”

“Yes, yes, I’m painfully aware,” I responded as I rolled over to lull myself back to sleep trying hard not to think of all the many, many things I needed to accomplish during my fourth day of summer… mainly because it will be all over before you know it.

Yes, I’ll admit it….it does seem strange for my husband and I to begin our day discussing D-Day of all things. It wasn’t the only thing we discussed, however. I also mentioned the durn birds had already started belting out their chirps, chortles, and whistles to each other, and our cat, (actually a small child disguised in a cat’s body) was already at the bedroom door meowing to be set free to the confines of the back yard. Dear Hubby and I bantered back and forth regarding who would let the cat out. It seemed fair to me that he should let the cat out since he had to get up anyway. He argued that the cat wasn’t his. She isn’t mine either, and anyway,I didn’t have anywhere to be…..anywhere but my soft, warm bed.

I tried to divert the sporadic conversation away from the cat. “Hey,” I said, “have you noticed that the top six news stories so far this morning have all involved murder? Sheesh!”

Hubby ignored Atlanta’s murder rate and said, “Hey, if you go let the cat out you can make the coffee before you come back.” He gave my shoulder a rub as an attempt to convince me.

“No, no, no, no….”

We bantered back for a bit. The cat’s meow eventually developed into a cry that might as well have been nails on a chalkboard. I gave in and flipped the covers back, “Ok, ok,” I said, “but I’m NOT making your coffee.” I half expected the cat to have her back legs crossed. She didn’t, but she did make a quick path to the door.

Hubby chuckled as I stalked off. As a parting shot he reminded me once more, “Hey, it’s D-Day tomorrow.” I grimaced.

So, it’s D-Day again. Another D-Day and I don’t have IT prepared. Another D-Day and I have failed yet again to get my research together to honor my paternal uncle….Cyrus “Buck” Carson, a glider pilot during the D-Day invasion.

Earlier in the week it dawned on me D-Day was almost upon us. I got busy and began looking for the order of service from Uncle Buck’s funeral a few years ago. I had saved it because Uncle Buck’s wartime exploits were detailed on the folded brochure along with his picture. For the past two years I have let D-Day come and go and have not written a thing about Uncle Buck because I was depending on that elusive paper.

I had saved the paper because I knew I could use it in someway with my World War II unit. As a history teacher I feel it is very important that my colleagues and I not only know our content backwards and forwards, I also feel we need to know and understand how the event has impacted our own family….our lives. We are then so much better prepared when one of our students asks the inevitable question, “Why is this important?” or the more popular “So what?”

By connecting to events in a personal way I am able to help my students connect in their own way. Maybe their grandmother or grandfather served during World War II or the Korean War. Perhaps their father was a POW during Vietnam? Perhaps their grandmother has hung onto a ration book from World War II. What a great way to bring history up close and personal.

I’ve looked everywhere for my papers regarding Uncle Buck and his wartime exploits. I mean everywhere. I know I saw it just six months ago. I know because I remember saying to myself, “Self…..stick this where you can find it come the first of June. You’re going to need it.” Guess I stuck it somewhere really good. Now, I’ve run out of time. I can’t even call my cousin to say send me something……I’m out of time.

But I’ve made a decision…I’m not going to let not having the paper I need stop me from writing about Uncle Buck. Much like our forefathers who were members of our “Greatest Generation” I will plow on ahead and look my foe straight on win or loose. Afterall, I call always write a follow up post when I come upon the paper, can’t I?

Growing up my Uncle Buck was at my house quite a bit. My aunt would stay inside and talk to my mom while Uncle Buck would get involved in some outside project with my dad…..usually something mechanical. I would enjoy their conversations popping back and forth between the men and the women taking it all in. My Uncle worked for Lockheed back then. I knew he had an important job working with the C5A Galaxy plane. Family lore says that when a wheel came off one of the planes during the 70s upon landing, and the wheel went bouncing across the runaway, my uncle was very involved with figuring out why the wheel fell off in the first place.

During all the times I spent with my uncle he would always engage me in grown up conversation regarding current events, mechanical things, and even a bit of history. I’m not sure what Uncle Buck loved more…..talking to people, or having them listen to him talk. You didn’t get a lot of words in….

Yes, my uncle was involved in aviation, but I didn’t give it much thought. I mean lots of my relatives had worked for Lockheed in Marietta, Georgia at some point in time. It never even crossed my mind he had ever done anything else but go to work or wait on my aunt, a woman that my Uncle Buck simply adored.

It wasn’t until later in his life that it dawned on me he had served during World War II and had been involved in the D-Day invasion. I was floored…simply floored. During one reunion visit I got him to talk (this was Uncle Buck….it wasn’t hard) and his story was amazing. I had recently watched the movie The Longest Day and was really intrigued by the gliders and the men they carried in prior to the invasion by sea. Just a few days later I’m sitting with my own relative telling me things about flying a glider and some of the horrible things he witnessed that day. He cried as he related some of his memories, and I welled up with love, respect and pride…..so much pride for this man who was simply my Uncle Buck.

When we think of the he Normandy D-Day invasion our mind often rests on images on of the amphibious landing craft heading into the beach and waves of men wading up out of the water while being assalted by thousands of bullets, but the invasion actually began with overnight parachute and glider landings. Had it not been for my Uncle Buck and the other members of the US Army Aircorp Glider Pilot Corps the first wave of soldiers would not have gotten to the shores of Normandy as they did. The soldiers who were carried on the gliders had the very important job of securing the right and left flanks of the beach prior to the advance of the larger invasion force on the beach.

So, what’s it like to fly a glider? At this website I found a vivid description from a veteran American glider pilot. He said: “Imagine”, he said, “flying a motorless, fabric-covered, CG-4A glider, violently bouncing and jerking on a 11/16 inch thick nylon rope 350 feet back of the C-47 tow plane. You see the nervous glider infantrymen behind you, some vomiting, many in prayer, as you hedge-hop along at tree-top level instinctively jumping up in your seat everytime you hear bullets and flak tearing through the glider. You try not to think about the explosives aboard. It’s like flying a stick of dynamite through the gates of Hell.”

Uncle Buck told me the hardest part of flying a glider into an invasion situation was at the moment of release from the tow plane. At that moment the pilot was committed to landing no matter what. There was no way for him to gain altitude. This means that many gliders had little wiggle room if the landing zone was under fire, mined, or if there was large equipment, buildings, etc. blocking the way.

The actual flights began on June 5th….and what of the glider pilots themselves? George Buckley's account is the closest I’ve found that mirrors many of the triumphs, fears, and tragedies that my Uncle Buck told me. Buckley relives his first few minutes over France:

Shortly after we crossed the coast of France, small arms fire and heavier flak started coming up at the planes at the front of the formation, and intensified the closer we got to our LZ. It looked like fluid streams of tracers zigzagging and hosing across the sky, mixed in with the heavier explosions of flak. One wondered how anything could fly through that and come out in one piece. After the front of the formation had passed over the German positions and woke them all up, we at the tail end of the line began to get hit by a heavier volume of small arms fire which sounded like corn popping, or typewriter keys banging on loose paper as it went through our glider. I tried to pull my head down into my chest to make myself as small as possible; I tucked my elbows in close to my body, pulled my knees together to protect the vital parts of my manhood and was even tempted to take my feet off the rudder pedals so they wouldn't stick out so far. At that point I really started to sweat.

Buckley also recounts what happened to several of the individual gliders that made it into Normandy that morning including Glider No. 1. It crashed into a line of trees and the co-pilot was killed along with Brig. Gen. Pratt, the Assistant Division Commander of the 101st Airborne Division. I remember Uncle Buck telling me about Pratt’s death. The story goes that many felt the glider was overloaded. It also didn’t help that a steel plate had been added to the floor of the glider to protect the flight crew from flak.

Another glider pilot, James Di Pietro, tells of his D-Day glider experience here and a brief history of the combat glider can be found here.

I started off this post with a little mundane morning banter between myself and my husband. It seems a bit out of place, doesn’t it? I mean isn’t this supposed to be a remembrance of my uncle and the other glider pilots that served during the D-Day invasion and during the following days?

I guess the point I’m attempting to make by including the back and forth between my husband and I is the men and women who served with the Allied forces during World War II ensured our right to the mundane. Yes, we have new enemies today to worry about, but my only real worries this morning was avoiding making the coffee, hoping the cat didn’t have an accident on my carpet, and finding some little piece of paper I thought was required to pay proper homage to uncle.

I don’t even have a clue….can’t even begin to fathom what my uncle and the other men at Normandy went through that day and I’m worried about a piece of paper and getting out of a warm bed.

Context and perspective……I need to get a grip.

If you are able to get close to a member of our Greatest Generation today whether they were at Normandy or not….give them a hug and say thank-you.

See many of my other posts regarding World War II here
See my tribute to the war service of my maternal uncle here

Thursday, June 05, 2008

13 Things About Union Station in Washington D.C.

One of the first places we headed upon arriving in Washington D.C. was Union Station where we gawked at the architecture, ate a great dinner, and listened to the rumble of trains arriving and departing. It was a great visit.

1. Union Station was designed by architect Daniel Burnham and is considered to be one of the finest examples of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture.

2. When it was completed in 1908 Union Station covered more ground than any other building in the U.S. and was the largest train station in the world.

3. Today the area around the station is covered with busy avenues, pedestrians, and cars going in many different directions. In 1908 when the station was finally completed it sat on the edge of an area known as “Swampoodle”which was basically a shantytown on the banks of Tiber Creek which has been described as “sewery.”

4. The station is so large that the Washington Monument could lay on its side within the concourse.

5. The 96-foot barrel-vaulted, coffered ceilings contain 22-karat gold leaf and the total cost for Union Station was $125 million including the tons of white granite used in its construction.

6. During its heyday Union Station was described as a city within a city. A bowling alley, mortuary, baker, butcher, YMCA, hotel, ice house, liquor store, Turkish baths, first-class restaurabt, nursery, police station, and a silver-monogramming shop could all be found on the premises.

7. B. Smith’s Restaurant can be found in the old Presidential Suite that was added to the station. President Taft was the first president to use the room as he waited to depart from Union Station. The station website advises many other important people also used the Presidential Suite over the years including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, King Albert I of Belgium, King Prajadipok of Siam, Queen Marie of Rumania, and King Haasan II of Morocco. President Eisenhower was the last president to utilize the suite for travel purposes, but in 1989 President George Bush used it during an Inaugural Ball.

8. Following the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt his body was returned to Washington D.C. via a funeral train that crossed the Potomac and backed into Union Station.

9. In 1953, an out of control Federal Express Train crashed through a newsstand and into the main concourse. No one was killed.

10. By 1968 more people were traveling by air than by train so a decision was made to transform the station into the “National Visitor Center”, but by 1978 the center closed due to low attendance.

11. The building soon fell into disrepair….rain damaged parts of the roof and toadstools began to grow inside the building. The fungus was so out of control that the building had to be sealed in 1981. Would Congress save the building or bulldoze it?

12. Later in 1981 Congress enacted the Union Station Redevelopment Act of 1981 which called for the Department of Transportation to come up with a plan for the commerical development of the station so that it would be financially self-sufficient. Through public and private partnerships the building was restored to its original state and a mixed use transportation center was created at the cost of $160 million

13. Today over 130 unique shops and restaurants fill the station. Amtrack uses the station for its headquarters and executive offices as well. The station is one of the most visited destinations in Washington D.C. with over 32 million visitors a year. Within the station you can find exhibitions, cultural events and private events such as the Presidential Inaugural Ball. Citywide galas are also held at Union Station.

Information obtained from the Union Station website.

Visit other bloggers participating in Thursday Thirteen here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Wordless Image of America

This is an image of the traffic in the Atlanta suburbs (getting close to an area Georgians refer to as Spaghetti Junction) as we set out last Wednesday afternoon heading out towards South Carolina.

Setting the idea of traffic aside for the moment……think about our connected maze of Interstate Highways

Do they make America a great nation, or do they just represent one more bureaucratic mess our government has become with the tax payer suffering with the results?

See other blogs participating in Wordless Wednesday here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The New Catch-22: The Social Studies Version

In a post titled The New Catch-22: Science and Literature, the Science Goddess over at What It's Like on the Inside wrote about a problem that plagues content area teachers. She says:

It goes without saying, I'm sure, that I have a particular bias about including science as part of a well-rounded education. It is not enrichment. It should not be an add-on to the curriculum, or something taught as filler when the teacher finds some time. I also believe that science becomes even more important in high-poverty areas because it provides students with background experiences as the basis for literacy. It is the concrete which allows teachers to tie on abstract words and symbols. It forms the foundation for students to make personal connections and have something to write about.

As I commented at her site if we took out the word “science” and included the words “social studies” then she has hit the nail right on the head for me and my thoughts on the issue. For example, I’ve lifted the following sentence from the Science Goddess’ post and inserted my curriculum area: Experiences in [social studies] build literacy (vocabulary in traditional settings does not). But students have to have the basic skills in reading and writing in order to support other learning.

Yes, this is a catch-22 since so many students come to us unprepared. The Science Goddess and I both realize that more and more emphasis is being placed on reading instruction in the early grades which in turn cuts the time for science and social studies instruction. She surmises the cry of the gung-ho literacy types in her post by saying: "Make them practice reading all day, if necessary, because more instruction is the same as better instruction." I guess it’s just the knee-jerk reaction, but it goes against research, and it goes against the success I’ve had in my social studies classroom regarding literacy improvement. Many of my students who do come to me unprepared improve their literacy rate by at least two grade levels.

I’m just wondering if I already knew I should be teaching literacy along with my content, and the Science Goddess knows she should be teaching literacy along with her content then why don’t we see more of it. I certainly don’t as I visit other content area classrooms. I see content, I see assessment, yet I also see poor retention and performance.

Literacy instruction in the content areas is THE KEY to building comprehension and retention of the material we teach. Let me repeat this because it is SO VERY IMPORTANT….if you teach science or your teach social studies and you aren’t teaching your students how to access the content….how to digest the information…..you are not providing all of the information you can to your students. If you aren’t well versed in many, many reading strategies please use your time over the summer to develop reading strategies that you can use beginning the first day of school.

In my fourth grade history courses I use many reading strategies; however, I would venture to say I use the text-marking strategy the most. I model the strategy for students more often at the beginning of the year, and as we go along I slack off more and more as many more students choose to use the strategy on their own.

In the beginning the trick is to get the students to understand this is not busy work, and it should not be just one more thing they have to do. Once they see the benefit they buy into it. Early on I use a process where students read a passage and then provide a retell immediately on tape or by writing a summary about what they have read. After we have practiced the strategy a few times I have students complete more summaries.

I always conference with each student individually for a few minutes and ask them what they think about the strategy. What do they find easy? What do they find difficult? What benefits do they see from using the strategy? Most understand that the process makes them think about their reading more indepth since they have to summarize it at the end. It’s here where they buy into the strategy, and basically after this they are willing to try any strategy I show them throughout the year. I try to include a reading strategy with each and every content lesson I teach.

From time to time I copy a page from the social studies text and hand them out for students to practice with the text-marking strategy. Depending upon the standards we are focusing on students learn to mark main idea, cause and effect, geographic descriptors, etc. Students might mark features of the text including captions, headings, or sub-headings or important points regarding an event.

When copies of the text cannot be made I have provided strips of colorful Post-It notes or marking tape that does not harm the textbooks.

I have found that over time students begin to internalize the process and begin to create their own way of marking text with their own shot-cuts---personal abbreviations and symbols. They make the strategy their own.

My team began using the text-marking strategy after attending a reading conference several years ago. We were concerned with our student’s level of comprehension and mandated student testing was looming before us. Since students could write in their test booklets this seemed like one strategy students could use all year long and transfer into the testing period as well. Over the years many students have chosen to utilize the strategy and stated the process makes it easier to keep track of the details and facts in a strict pass/fail situation when nerves are already on edge. Since they have practiced the process all year it comes very natural for them.

It’s so very easy for all of us in the content areas to moan and groan that “they are taking our time away from us” and we can continue to complain that students aren’t prepared as they reach the lower and upper middle grades OR we can roll up our sleeves and provide more opportunities for students to have more varied literacy experiences and more practice with various reading strategies, so they will not be “left behind.”

Sunday, June 01, 2008

As Seen on My Computer Screen This Weekend

Over the weekend I took a twirl around the history and education blogosphere and found some mighty interesting things.

The most current edition of the history carnival can be found over at Progressive Historians while Mrs. Bluebird over at Bluebird's Classroom is expertly hosting the education carnival. Both are presented in very creative formats.

….and speaking of the whole history blogosphere thing anyway…..per Ralph Luker over at Cleopatria the history sector of the blogging world is growing by leaps and bounds. Head on over to the Cleopatria blogroll and find out which topics are being served at the feast.

It would seem that during my recent trip to Washington D.C. the Tour Marm and I were probably a mere several hundred feet from each other and did not realize it. She has posted images from her Memorial Day tour of Arlington National Cemetery with a group of students…..lots of great pictures.

My son will begin the final year of his quest for a history degree this fall. We are already beginning to question him regarding his options to put his degree to work for him. If he’s not going to teach then……I found Dr. History’s post I'd like to exchange my liberal arts degree for something useful interesting. Did you know that several of the top CEOs in our country hold history degrees?