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General

Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

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I walked into the high school as a seventh grader in 1969. I walked out of it as a retiree in last week.

You get asked a lot of questions when you retire, many of which have the unintended consequence of poking you right in the feels. (I'm definitely not  crying at least once a day, but if I did, I would at least manage to do it when I'm not in front of anybody.) Some are pretty basic (what are you going to do with that filing cabinet) and some dig a little deeper, like the comments about my legacy. Some folks have even offered to watch after my legacy, to preserve it, and I just don't have the heart to tell them that I have no legacy in that building.


I'm the longest-serving member of the current faculty, which means that I've seen a lot of people head out the door, and I know exactly what kind of mark they leave behind them.

Teachers are not billionaires or politicians. We don't generally get to build giant structures and slap our own names on them in hopes that some day we will leave a mark behind us. We don't generally get honored with statues and monuments, not even in a broad Tomb of the Unknown Teacher way, let alone as specific individuals. Nobody is out there carving his third grade teacher's face into the side of a mountain.

A teacher in a school is like a post driven deep into the bed of a river. The current bends around her; maybe it cuts into the bank and certainly it carries river traffic along paths affected by that post. Even the bed of the river will be cut and shaped by the current as it bends around that post. People even start to navigate by the post, as if it's a permanent part of the river.

But something happens when the post is one day removed.

Maybe folks are so impressed by the post that they put a special commemorative marker in place of the post. Maybe some big boulders rolled into place against the post and stay in place long after the post is gone, even when folks don't remember how they ended up there.

But mostly there's a momentary swirl of dirt, a quick rush of water and then, after a brief moment of time, the river bed is smooth again and the river flows as if there was never any post at all.

I don't imagine I will leave much of legacy here, and what little there is will be worn away over time, and that's okay. I do have a legacy, but to see it, you have to look downstream.

I figure that I've worked with, roughly, 5,000 students. Some of them are still carrying around bits of skill or knowledge that I passed on to them, or parts of their lives that grew out of something I passed on to them. They grew up to be living, breathing, growing, active men and women who worked at finding how to be their best selves, how to be fully human in the world. Undoubtedly some of those students didn't get much out of being in my class, and some have less-than-positive memories of me, but I have to believe that some got something out of their time in my room.

That's my legacy. People who felt just a little better about reading, or just a little better about riding. Here and there some students who actually pursued writing or teaching as careers. Some students who built a foundation of confidence in an activity. Some I hear from now and then, some I talk to regularly, and some whose lives took them far from here, and I have no idea how their stories have unfolded.

My legacy-- and every teacher's legacy-- is not here in this building. This building is just brick and mortar and rules and procedures and "traditions" that sometimes last less than a decade, all carried out by a constantly-changing cast of educators and students. Names and awards are created, but they carry on names even as the person whose name it is is forgotten. My legacy-- and every teacher's legacy-- is out in the world, in those students who passed through this building, and it's not for anyone to "preserve" because it has a life of its own-- as it should.

If I can switch metaphors for a moment-- as teachers, our job is to light a fire, to pass along a flame. Passing on a flame is a curious activity-- the new flame is not a piece of the old one, but its own new thing, with its own new life, even as the old fire continues to burn. Spreading a flame multiplies it, but the new flame is not shaped or controlled by the old one.

If I walk back into this building ten years from now, I don't imagine that I'll find anything to indicate that I was ever here. But, "God help and forgive me, I wanna build something that's gonna outlive me." Teaching has always let me do that-- but not here, not in this building. Not in this stiff structure of unliving steel and stone. Out there in the world, where the water carries us to the sea, new fires spring up to illuminate the world, and human beings full of life and breath roam and grow. If we're going to have a legacy, that's where it will be.

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Jack and His Plans for Next Year:

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I try hard to ignore goofy Jack who, at 13, still doesn't know how to raise his hand to get my attention.

"Mr. Ramsey!"

I grit my teeth. Don't give in, I say to myself. Don't even look his way.

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But could you do it? Could you face a shooter and pull the trigger? Or tackle? And not panic? Tough questions. Easy to say what we would do, but could we do it? Our split second decision lasts forever, with so many ramifications.

As of now eighteen states allow teachers to carry firearms, undoubtedly there will be more. Obvious concerns including insurance companies worrying about liability, teachers questioning the idea, incidents already occurring with teachers making errors with guns, inevitable, and the social dilemma of what to do next about this growing and heinous problem.

In 2017 there were forty-four school shoortings, elementary and high school. The grisly toll was twenty-five lost and sixty injured. Thus far this year statistics are horrid, twenty- eight school shootings, with forty deaths and sixty-six injured. 

Just another day. Another shooting at school. Yesterday's shooting was at a Middle School in Indiana, just a bunch of innocent kids. A class taking a science test in the classroom. Not just any classroom, happened to be Jason Seaman's, former football player, school football coach, most important science teacher. Hired to be a science teacher, not a hero. But hero he is. However unintentionally.

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We talk a lot about how to increase student achievement and improve learning in our classrooms.

A lot of these conversations are centered around what needs to be added or changed in a classroom, NOT what should be removed. Many of the practices that still exist in classrooms across the country are not only outdated, but they are making progress and growth nearly impossible for schools and districts.

Here are 7 ways that you might be making progress and learning impossible for your students.

1. Lecturing too much.

If you didn't already know I'm not a huge fan of Lecturing. Not only does the research not support it (at all), but it is archaic, disengaging for students, and after only 10 minutes, you've lost over 50% of your students. Any longer and those numbers go up.

I truly don't care how good you think you are at lecturing, this is simply an ineffective practice when used on a daily basis or as the primary means of instruction. If you do this more than a few times a week, please stop. Direct instruction and lecturing have their limited place, and I'm not saying they should never happen in a classroom, but they should come in the form of short, purposeful, and targeted discussions with learners, not the tired and broken "sit and get" model of instruction.

[bctt tweet="If some of this hits a little too close to home, it's ok. It is okay for us to recognize that our classroom, or instruction, or management is not quite perfect. We can always improve.

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Somehow, with one minute before we had to leave for school one of my son’s shoes went missing. The only shoes that he will currently wear. I searched everywhere as fast as I could. No luck. It was then that I told him he was going to have to wear his brand new Star Wars Crocs. This didn’t go over well.

My son proceeded to cry, scream and have a fit like only toddlers can. I texted my principal to let her know that I was going to be a few minutes late and decided to conduct one last sweep of the house while my son continued to cry while sitting at the top of the steps. Maybe it would turn up.

No such luck!

I gathered my screaming son and the Crocs that he would have to wear and carried him to the car. I quickly buckled him in his booster seat and put the Crocs on his feet. He immediately kicked them onto the floor. So be it. I would deal with that later. If at all.

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