How to Implement Rigorous and Relevant ELA Curriculum

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Leaders often look to best practices, scholarship, and other leaders before making changes in their organizations. However, much of my coursework in educational leadership has called on me to look to myself for answers. I find this to be valuable, as I do not yet have years of leadership experience to ponder; it does me good to envision how I will meet the inevitable changes and challenges I can expect when I assume a formal leadership role. Though I have opportunities to reflect in my coursework, prior assignments required me to ground my reflection in research. This may seem contradictory because most of us self-reflect without considering others’ thoughts, but academia demands explanation enforced by citation.

This post, though, is a reflective narrative reflection, a metacognitive exercise—a record of my thinking about my thinking. And in this instance I will write my way through the problem of implementing a rigorous and relevant ELA curriculum. Here is how I understand the issue.

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Remembering Ronnie: An Old Soldier Tells His Story

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vietnam, purple heart, veterans

I’ve learned there’s more to memorials than this.

I wrote a little while back about learning to listen better. At the time, I was primarily concerned with improving my relationships with my family, friends, students, and colleagues. What I didn’t expect was that actively practicing my listening skills might lock me into an hour-and-a-half long conversation at CVS. Yes, that’s where I spent last Wednesday night, talking with a Vietnam vet named Ronnie. Here’s a brief retelling.

I went out to CVS to pick up some antacid that night. I recently did a little self-diagnosing, and I think I have LPR, or “silent reflux”, but that’s a story for another day. I stood around trying to decide which medicine to purchase, when suddenly I heard a gravelly voice behind me. Continue reading

Will Smith’s Words of Wisdom from the Tonight Show

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I don’t watch a lot of late-night TV. As a new father, teacher, grad student, and martial arts instructor, I don’t have a lot of energy to stay up at night! I do like watching clips of episodes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Conan O’Brien, and my new favorite, Jimmy Fallon.  You’d have to be living under a rock if you missed his ascension to the hosting spot on The Tonight Show.  If you’re like me, you may have even missed this great interview with his first-ever guest, Will Smith.

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Not Really a Book Review of The Icarus Deception

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I am an unabashed Seth Godin fan. His main audience may be businesspeople, but the topics he writes about are universally valuable: how to fail with purpose, how to tell a good story, and, how to be indispensible.

His latest book, The Icarus Deception, heralds the end of the Industrial Era and its secure, well paid jobs, and it convinces us that the only way to ensure your professional success and personal fulfillment is to find and do work you deem worthwhile–in other words, to make art.

Here’s where I depart from a mere book review. After finishing the book and viewing Godin’s Sqidoo bibliography page, I came to a realization:

I have been blogging to promote my art, but I haven’t intended for my blog to be my art.

I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from the blog as I sort things out. Instead of being an advice column with some fiction and essays attached to it, I’d like to make Good Circuits a place to publish thought-provoking work of all types.

As the past iterarions of this blog may reflect, I’m going through growing plains as a writer. Should I write fiction, poetry, nonfiction, how to, self help, martial arts, stick strictly to marketing?

The truth is, I want to create all of that and more and to connect with all of you. And I’d like to welcome all of you to create and connect, too.

I’d love for you to share this experience with me. We are all artists, so let’s get together and make some art! Let’s make the most of our time online.

Let’s not waste the marvelous opportunity that Information Age presents. There’s more to the Internet than shopping and memes and cat videos. There is nothing standing in our way.

Recreation

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Consider the word recreation.

re – a prefix meaning to do again

creation – to make something

If you’re one to make New Year’s resolutions, take the opportunity to recreate the things in your life that need the most improvement. Have the courage and resolve to set a plan of action and to follow through on it.

Remember also the most common connotation of the word recreation. Don’t forget to have fun!

Happy New Year!

Holiday

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I don’t mean to nag you like the Keep the Christ in Christmas crowd.

I do invite you to take some time out of the busy holiday season to reflect, to introspect, and to do something spiritual.

Attend a service, create some art, reconnect with friends and relatives, donate a gift to charity.

After all, ’tis the season, and these are holy days for many faiths. Let’s do things that are good for the soul.

Merry Christmas!

Anticipations

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Whether you’ll be up late with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head or for some other pleasant reason, remember that there’s always something to look forward to. If you’re having trouble seeing it, you might just need to look harder. I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s worth it to try.

Sequels

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Regarding my last post, I received an e-mail from a reader suggesting I change my tone about Christians and materialism.

I would like to discuss that request. I don’t truly believe Christians are materialistic. Nor do I believe the stereotypes about rednecks, hipsters, or any other group.

But if I changed “Nativity” to “Santa” it wouldn’t be sarcastic anymore.

I was trying for a subtle rhetoric here; I was trying to critique the consequences of adhering to stories (lies) we tell ourselves that require us to act in a
prescribed way without thinking. It was litmus test about prejudice, and if I offended you or if you disagreed with me, you passed.

People who believe the stories they’re told without question are ignorant; people we live out a story simply to attain an image or ideal rather than to actually improve their lives are dangerous.

Someone like Lanza who believed the world had wronged him likely lied to himself to the point where it seemed the next logical thing to do was to copycat all those other monsters.

We can blame psychology, school security, gun control, or the media for the tragedy of Sandy Hook. Really though, misunderstanding the power of storytelling is the real problem.

Storytelling

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We all tell ourselves stories that define our identities, that unite the like-minded, and that help us cope with the trials of life. They guide us through the day to day and help us make important decisions. They inform our relationships and our politics. It doesn’t even matter if they’re true or not: the power of fiction (literature, cinema, video games) to be more than mere entertainment proves my point. Stories and storytelling are probably the most important aspects of our psychology because they shape how we view ourselves and the world.

Marketers love this because our personal stories can be accessorized: if you believe in self-reliance, you need a gun and maybe a pickup truck. If you fancy yourself open-mided and hip, you’ll need some horn rimmed glasses and a fixed-gear bike. If you believe in the Nativity, well, shouldn’t you be at the mall right now?

Some of the stories we tell ourselves are passed down through family and culture. Some are completely original. No matter what story you tell yourself, consider this: does it involve upholding your idealism over the happiness or wellbeing of others? If so, it may be time to reconsider.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, many people are doing just that.

You may be “stuck” in a story you don’t truly believe in, or one that you realize is wrong. Remember that how we choose to live out our stories is up to us. It’s never to late to change stories, or, better yet, to write a new one.