Friday, February 26, 2010

Hypocrisy: A Careful Understanding

Hypocrisy is a dirty idea. It's a tainted act. Again, some definitions (1):

1. A pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.

2. A pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.

3. An act or instance of hypocrisy.
Adults can be hypocrites. We assume (hope) that time they've spent maturing allows them to understand the difference between integrity (meaning and acting on what you say) and hypocrisy (see above).
The word originates from Greek theatre. Actors would wear large, distorted masks meant to convey some emotion related to the character. This idea, originally hypokrisis in Greek, meant play-acting.
As teachers in middle schools, we see play acting by our students all the time. Developmentally, they are seeking peer approval and as such will act in whatever ways necessary to gain that approval. At times, they can be hypocrites. At other times, they can complain to their friends and parents that, "such and such is not being real." or "He is so fake." or "She is just not genuine." The struggle for our students is looking inward and figuring out how important peer approval is compared to their own beliefs.
Our job is to help inform that debate, that struggle. In my role, I try to do it through the Honor Code. Adults can become frustrated when we see the students speak to the honor code and the components within it, and then turn around and do something that is totally against it. We can, at times, label our students hypocrites. But are they?
First, this is what middle schoolers do - they are impulsive and live in the present. This characteristic manifests itself in some of the stupid things they do. Second, they are discovering justice and fairness (what is just is not always fair) and are adamant that everything be fair. This characteristic manifests itself in the discussions of the use of the Honor Code. So our students are not necessarily hypocrites when they fly from one characteristic to the other - they're middle schoolers. This doesn't mean we don't call them on it - hold them accountable and help them realize all actions have consequences, but it does mean that we need to understand the context within which these students are living and making choices.
As Samuel Johnson said,
Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself. (2)
Rambler 14, P. 154. In Chalmers, Alexander: Full text of "The British essayists : with prefaces, historical and biographical".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Update to 6th Grade History Assignment

Hello Again,

I've received some emails for clarification on the Internet Assignment from Monday. Here it goes:

1. Textiles are clothes, rugs or any other product made from wool, cotton, etc. Think about the colorful, geometric rugs you see in the rooms below the library. Oriental Rugs are a great example. In the video on YouTube there is a description of how textiles were important to the economy of the Islamic Empire. The cue for the section is 35 minutes in. This will help to introduce you to the topic. Take the time to just watch at first and then rewind and re-watch as needed.

2. Your assignment is to draw and color some textile product that could be found in the Muslim World of 1100 - 1200 AD. You will draw this on a 8.5" x 11" (regular printer paper) with pencil and colored pencil or crayons or markers. If you have construction paper you should glue the picture to that.

3. Once you have completed that you will create a brief decription of your textile product. Remember when you are in a museum and you read the brief description of the piece of art? That is what you are writing. The PBS site has a list of exactly what you will need to include on your description. When it says materials used, it wants you to describe what that textile product would have if it were real. The description is not true, but it makes sense in the context of the time period and is historically accurate. For example, don't use walrus leather as a material because that would not be found in the Muslim Empire of 1100-1200....

For example, "Made from lamb's wool, ca. 1135, Syria. The design is meant to draw the eye to the center of the rug where the ritual would take place. This rug was used by the caliph Abda al Symon in ceremonies of surrender after battles."

4. On the PBS site, use the Video Note Guide to get the information you will need for the Museum Description portion of the assignment. You will use this guide while watching the video.

5. On the PBS site, peruse the websites they reccommend to learn more about textiles in the Muslim world. This will help you get ideas of what to draw and what to include on your museum description.

6. Use the Project Scoring Rubric on the PBS site to determine if you have done enough to complete the assignment.

Message to My 5th Grade Math Class

Hey Guys,

I hope you are enjoying Round 2 of this winter storm. I remember when I was a freshmen in high school we had a similar blizzard and we were out of school for a week....and they had to cancel exams!

Well, you guys may be out for a week, but they aren't cancelling exams. Sorry. Also, we have all this great technology so I can get in touch with you to send an assignment home. I've got to keep your math minds sharp. Isn't that great! (They didn't have all this when I was freshman in high school.)

Here is you Blizzard Assignment:

1. Go to Mr. Little Math Blog on the Calvert Homepage or click on the link:

2. On the right hand column select Math Textbook and Resources

3. Select 5th grade math

4. Under the Textbook column, select Chapter 4

5. When the textbook chapter has loaded, scroll down to p. 93 and complete the Mid Chapter Review ALL on a separate sheet of paper. Please put your name and the date on it.

6. After this, scroll down to p. 114-115 and complete Chapter 4 Review #1-36 ODDS on a separate piece of paper. Please put your name and the date on it.

Good luck and email me with any questions you may have. These are due when we return to school tomorrow or Friday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Day and Work Day

I guess all the dancing, spoons and cotton balls worked! My goodness there is a lot of snow around here. I've done a lot of digging and am starting to think I'm living in an igloo! There is talk of another winter storm coming our way Tuesday night which could affect school on Wednesday....

All of that sounds great but my 6th grade history class still needs to keep their "History Minds" sharp. I created the following assignment for them to complete at home, and if any of them are reading this blog tonight, they'll see it here too.

Since not all of us have the textbook, and/or our notebook, I am assigning the following Internet Assignment to be completed by the time we return to school (either Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday).

This assignment will revisit the video we watched to introduce the topic of Islam. Below is a link to Video 2 of the movie, Islam: Empire of Faith. You will need to view it to complete the accompanying assignment found on the link below. Read the directions carefully. If you do not have the material at your home, do your best to find something similar, but DO NOT go out and get anything.

The PBS Video on You Tube:

The PBS Internet Assignment:

Good luck.

Mr. Skeen

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Expectation & Enchantment

Snow Days: Not Just for Students

Over the last three months the mid-atlantic and south have seen some of the largest snow storms in recent memory. Of course, all of this is child's play to our friends in Minnesota, but we're still proud of our accumulation thus far in 2009-2010. While the snow can create major issues for traffic, work, and government budgets, it is something students and teachers keep a keen eye on because of the potential for snow days.

The expectation of snow days can be as exciting as the expectation a child feels on Christmas Eve. When snow does come and blankets streets, trees, and bushes silencing the "white" noise of our neighborhoods, the enchantment with the beauty and power of nature sprouts and spreads through our souls. Children experience a direct connection with nature that (in our urban context) is lacking. A natural serenity envelops adults like the snow envelops evrything below it.

Tonight we will fall asleep (with our pajamas turned inside out and a slight sweat from the snow dance we just completed) and dream in different shades of white. Our expectation is that we will get a free day - a snow day. We hope enchantment will greet us when we awake.