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Posted by on in General

The Soviet Union’s jump-start to space exploration, with the launching of Sputnik in 1957, left egg on America’s face and galvanized the Space Race that would last between the two nations well into the next decade. 

I was just two years old in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy announced, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  A few years later, I was beginning my elementary school days, and, at the same time, the nation was ramping up its efforts to improve science education in order to produce the best science minds for taking on the president’s goal.

As the Apollo mission reached a fevered pitch in the late sixties, I was finally having science added to my daily lessons.  Truthfully, most of the lessons simply involved reading a text and filling out worksheets, but I was in heaven!  I loved science!  I loved learning about atoms and cells and pulleys and levers and electricity and biology.  I ran to the library and checked out all the books I could find about rocket ships and future plans for inhabiting the moon.  I begged my mother for money (from an already overstretched bank account) and bought my own books about the moon from Scholastic. 

I followed the race to the moon in the newspaper and clipped articles for a scrapbook that now, fifty years later, is yellowed and faded.  I wanted to be an astronaut, despite the fact that I could barely make it through a ride in the family station wagon without getting carsick.

Along with other boys and girls my age, I stayed up late on July 20, 1969 and rejoiced as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the moon’s surface. A few years later, we held our breath and prayed in the middle of class as the astronauts of Apollo 13 had to abort their mission and figure out a way to stay alive in order to return safely to Earth. Throughout junior high school and high school, we watched four more Apollo lunar modules land on the moon.  The country moved on to Skylab and space shuttles which still had the power of stopping science fanatics like me in our tracks to watch launchings and landings and, sadly, a few disastrous mishaps.

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Posted by on in General

After more than three decades of working with kids from kindergarten to high school age,  I have witnessed many a behavioral outburst.  Occasionally, these incidents have been explosive, with a student striking out vocally and/or physically at his teacher or one of his peers in some attempt to openly rebel and assert his individual power.  These types of outbursts can potentially cause more harm to the well-being of others than to the angry child himself.    

A second type of meltdown is implosive in nature.  The most vulnerable in these situations is the child himself.  Feelings of depression, rejection, humiliation and hopelessness can lead a child to retreat into his own mind and melt from within.   

Sometimes you face kids who are imploding and exploding at the same time.

I was just about to get in my car and head to my weekly administrator's meeting, when my cell phone started ringing.  I balanced my pile of data in one arm and clicked the phone's green "accept" button with my free hand.  "Yes?" I hollered. 

"Mr. Ramsey," our school secretary, Valerie, began, "Mrs. Larrabee needs you by the eighth grade boys' restroom.  She says Louie is pounding his head on the sidewalk and screaming." 

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Posted by on in General

Teaching writing to seventh graders is often quite tedious.  Most of the kids really don’t want to write and, if they do, they don’t want to go through the arduous process of revising, editing and re-writing. 

Still I love what I do…most days.  This year, I am really enjoying using our new software that allows me to monitor, from my screen, what every student is doing on his/her screen.  What is really cool, is that I can enter any student’s essay at any time from my desk and offer suggestions to keep the writing going.  It takes a bit of managing as all 35 kids in a class want their work read immediately and all at the same time.  But I am getting there… 

Today, my students began writing their rough drafts of their creative stories inspired by the painting, “The Scream.”  Many started raising their hands only minutes after the assignment was given.

“No,” I announced, “today you are going to work by yourself for the first fifteen minutes without my help.  Have faith in your writing.  When the time is up I will help one person at a time.  Remember that you have your seat partners to read and revise with you.” 

Nick immediately came to my desk.  I looked at this quirky kid and repeated my directions.  “Fifteen minutes, Nick.  It’s only been fifteen seconds.” 

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Posted by on in General

Building relationships with kids takes time and commitment on both sides of the equation.  A solid connection can be encouraged or fortified by a grand event – an open house evening, a “Donuts for Dad” or “Muffins for Mom” celebration, or a campus carnival – but such an event alone cannot create long and meaningful relationships.  The daily interactions of teachers with their students, with ongoing discourse between the two, is the only thing that I have found to be most effective in developing and nurturing lasting connections. 

Sometimes you just have to listen to each other’s stories of pain and sadness, joy and gladness, and everything in-between. 

By the end of the first month of school, I know quite a bit about a child’s life just from the continuous conversation he/she and I have had.  Tiny bits of information from numerous simple conversations while lining up, while turning in papers, while waiting for lunch, while passing each other on the sidewalk at the end of the day all help to bring us closer together. 

All of that dialogue has informed me of the child’s family situation – parents together or separated, number of brothers and sisters, favorite subject in school, type of pets, names of school friends, fears and worries at home and at school.  

I know each student’s favorite type of music, favorite football team, favorite color, favorite candy, favorite brand of shoe.  I know a little bit about each child’s interests and each child’s goal for the future.  All of these seemingly trivial pieces of information help me to carry on more conversations with each child and help me to further forge the bond between me and them. 

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Posted by on in General

 Our country truly needs to re-examine the way it views education. 

A boy in my homeroom class was packing up at the end of the day. He walked up to me and asked quite bluntly, in pure seventh grade manner, "Mr. Ramsey, was your father ashamed of you for becoming a teacher?" 

I was truly taken aback and hurt a bit by this question. But, in true seventh grade teacher manner, I remained calm and asked, "Why would you even think that?" 

"Well, like he was in the Marines..." 

"Air Force," I corrected. "So?" 

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