Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thailand Slideshow

The Teachable Moment

I suppose it was fortunate that I was teaching aeronautics to middle school kids when a teachable moment arrived with the quick thinking and heroic actions of a veteran pilot. New Yorkers have been in the midst of a funk about the collapse of the financial industry and the tales of scurrilous advisors who sank their portfolios, so it was good that they could rejoice in a momentary miracle. Captain Sullenberg's great skill and experience along with fate allowed him to ditch his airplane in the Hudson River. As it happened, two ferries, engines running and ready to go, plucked the 155 survivors off the wings of that sinking airplane, and the captain, checking the aisles one last time was the last to leave the ship.

We all need teachable moments. My students, needing a way to understand how valuable their skills could be in a time of crisis, saw how good judgment and experience could avert a terrible disaster. Flying a plane is challenging and you may only have a short time to avert disaster when your engines ingest multiple geese and all power is lost. Reason must triumph over fear if lives are to be saved.

Jonah Lehrer published an excellent article in the Los Angeles Times in which he talks about a pilot’s, "deliberate calm," a phrase he equates with metacognition. Teachers learn this concept in their training as showing students how to be self reflective. Mr. Lehrer suggests that, "the crucial variable is the ability to balance visceral emotions against a more rational and deliberate thought process."

Link to Jonah Lehrer - LA Times - 01-17-09

We have to engage our students and put them in the moment when they have to make quick decisions based upon training and skill and show them how to triumph over fear. The simulators in my classroom are one good teaching tool but every teacher can take this moment and find a way to motivate students to call upon the, "better angels of our nature."

I'm planning a mission for my students where I put them at 3000 feet over Santa Monica Bay and turn off the engines in their Cessna 172 simulators. They will need to calculate their rate of vertical descent and come in for a glider landing at the nearest regional airport.

Aeronautics Class

We may never be tested like Captain Sullenberger but that doesn't mean we can't emulate his, "deliberate calm," and act like real pilots.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Feeling Googley

I am in Google training at CUE once again. My class is busy Doodling 4 Google as I sit in a conference room in Palm Springs. I have been learning from every teacher I speak with. I'm lucky to be sitting next to Jeffrey Smith, ITAF support guy who has been collaborating with me learning the Google Apps this morning. More Posting later today. The

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year 2008

Wow! I had a great New Years weekend. I hung out with a bunch of cranky seals and a pelican or two in La Jolla, stayed for few nights near Swami's beach in Encinitas, and then returned home to catch a great view of Downtown LA from the Baldwin Hills.

I resolved to drink more this year and I'm not saying what I'm drinking.

Best wishes and good cheer to all.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Vacation - Smore

Wow! I'm starting my 23-day holiday break from teaching today. The last sixteen weeks were a long slog into the byzantine and cobwebbed depths of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and I'm glad to report that I have once again emerged into the light.

I was teaching 6th grade math and science for the last four years and was offered a new position this year teaching electives in the computer lab. The lab contained 39 underpowered PCs running the Windows 98 Operating System. Neither the hardware nor the OS is supported by our own IT department. They were purchased in 1999 and are still running because of spit and shoe polish applied at personal expense.

We have also endured a payroll scandal that began at the beginning of 2007 and has affected everything adversely. There have been multiple errors on tens of thousands of paychecks including my own throughout the year. The overall costs have been horrendous and reverberated with cutbacks to every functioning level of the bureaucracy.

LAUSD Payroll costs balloon

LAUSD's image problem - Los Angeles Times

Many teachers have huge classes with poor support, and as one administrator gleefully informed me, "your union voted for the contract that allows me to put 40.5 kids in each of your classes."

Oh yeah, I did get a grant from the State of California to teach a career technology class about aeronautics. My school site administrators were very supportive but the grant funded after the school year started and we finally got our 14 Windows XP computers and flight yokes operating last week.

I do have some great students and there are many supportive teachers, counselors, and administrators. I love teaching and have many good moments but I fear that the dearth of resources and support will drive many teachers and parents away from the public school system if it continues.