Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Corporate Influence

                I was told once that “money makes the world go round, so don’t be square”. At first I thought that this person was a fool, but upon further review and outside of their acknowledgement I began to agree. As we all know the major money comes from business and enterprise. They run the world and everything revolves around them and their successes and failures, so why would anyone think that business wouldn’t have any effect on our public schools? The answer is, business culture has a dramatic influence on our schools and how they operate. They play a critical role in many different aspects of our schools that we might not even realize.        

           When our students are in their classrooms, working on a project and researching a topic they are utilizing multiple different informational sources. One of which is certainly going to be a book, but where did that book come from and how did the school come to get it. Chances are it wasn’t free and that someone had to pay for it. Even though we are in a huge technological upswing, books still play a huge role in our schools. The schools purchase the books from manufacturers who are making a massive profit. Schools typically purchase based on what’s called a low bid cost. This means that companies put forward an offer to the schools for their books, and schools will vote on the different options typically choosing the lowest bid that still meets their requirements for the books they want.
       While this is a process that has been going on for many years, some places are looking to make a change in this process in an effort to reduce costs to already suffering budgets. One option that schools in California are looking at is moving away from paper copies and moving to eBooks, or electronic books. These books will be downloaded to either computers or to tablets that students will have access to, and will be able get the same information. This would reduce costs significantly, and would still allow students access to the information from the textbooks. While some see the financial gains as a major positive, others are purists and believe that taking physical books away from students only further pushes our society towards the technological stronghold.
      While books are one aspect of business in schools, what companies want more than money from the districts is the opportunity to advertise in their schools. The money earned from advertising far exceeds the money from products sold to the district. Companies know that advertising and influencing adolescents would net them the greatest gains. The advertising is seen by some as an easy way to bring in massive amounts of income to the districts with no effort on their behalf. However the downside to this seen by some is that we are selling out our students to earn a few dollars. We would be allowing companies to brandish their logos and catchphrases around our schools further allowing them to lay influence over our impressionable students. While I feel that this is an easy way to earn money to support other portions of our schools, it’s almost like selling your soul to the devil.
      This doesn’t mean that I don’t think that we should eradicate all corporate influence from schools, I think that it needs to be done so in a responsible manner. I think that corporate influence has the opportunity to benefit both parties, but great care needs to be taken so that we can ensure that our students are not being sold out for a few extra dollars in the budgets. When introducing corporate influence into our schools, it can be done by less intrusive ways, such as through technology. Allowing companies that want their products in the schools to be used through grants and donations. Such as computers and tablets from apple, digital cameras from Nikon and so on. Companies are willing to gift their products to schools, but the schools are the ones who need to advocate for these grants/gifts. This is a responsible and meaningful way of introducing the business world into our school systems.


Money is what makes the world go round. While this statement is sad it is also true, and without the proper funding schools struggle to create and even maintain basic functioning abilities. Especially in today's economic climate we see a steady and constant downturn of the funding given to schools. Over the past five years almost all schools have seen a steady decline in the amount of federal and state funding. School boards have been face to face with creating budgets that are not only filled with difficult decisions, but they are forced to decide how many teachers we will be losing, what programs are worth more than others, and finally which ones can be cut.

So when you ask, why is important for teachers to know where the money is coming from, I can only ask, why wouldn't they want to know. The budget directly effects the materials they will be able to get, the amount of students in their classes, and even more critically their salary and benefits. Teachers are already seen by most as a vastly underpaid profession, and yet they play a major role in the futures of our youth. As teachers and future teachers, we need to make it a point to find out as much information about the budgets as we can so we can be informed consumers.

Each year a school board passes a budget to be voted on by their local community who essentially will pay a school tax that directly affects the budget of their local schools. If as consumers you have no idea what is going into the budget, all you see is the increase in the amount of money you will be paying on top of your property taxes. To many people, they already feel that their taxes are too high, making it difficult to justify paying even more. They have an even more difficult time ponying up more money when they don't have any children going through the public school system. They don't understand that a 3% increase on their taxes could potentially save 20+ jobs in their district. All they see is that they will pay another couple hundred dollars. They don't have anything physical to attach the extra fees to.

There are other ways that money can be brought in other than the federal and state funding. There are a massive amount of grants available to teachers, if you are willing to work for them, but since nothing is free, you will need to pay in effort and dedication. Programs like Keep Gym In School are dedicated to keeping Physical education in our schools, and they are advocates of keeping kids active. Strikingly enough, they also offer grants to teachers who they find are dedicated and are trying to pushing the boundaries of their physical education programs. Earning money for your program or school, doesn’t have to come from grants either, because chances are there are people in your community that would be willing to donate funds towards your program. The thing is, it is up to the teacher to go out and find those people, because last time I checked people don’t walk around handing out money. However if your program is open and outgoing, you are more willing to find community members who are willing to support you and your ideas. These ideas need to be reviewed and agreed on, and to make sure that you can explain and present them in a way that shows you have done your groundwork.

As teachers we need to be able to explain where the money comes from and what it is going towards, because the old answer of "it is going towards your child's education" won't cut it anymore. More than that, you need to know where the rest of the money is coming from, because if you aren't informed enough to give an educated answer, how are you going to talk to your community members and express to them the importance of this tax. Having my wife as a teacher has given me greater insight into both sides of the issue that most never get to see. I know what it is like to pay high taxes and see a steady increase each year, and yet I also hear about schools laying off dozens of teachers, and even worse closing schools. I also have a more in depth look into what the school budget involves rather than just buying books and paying salaries. Teachers are being forced to take pay freezes in their contracts simply because funding has been cut in half from where it was years ago. So as times get worse and costs go up, pay stays the same. This increased pressure in their personal financial situations should be reason enough to gain as much knowledge about the issue as possible. Otherwise everyone can keep burying their heads in the sand and hope for the best and complain about the rest.


           Bullying is not something that is new or groundbreaking, but it is a more prominent topic of conversation today. We often hear that bullies are pushing other children to their breaking points and beyond. When I hear these stories, they have a special meaning to me, because I was a victim of bullying myself for years, and it was the most difficult time of my life. I wasn’t the best at anything, I didn’t live in the same development as everyone else, I moved to the area in the middle of elementary school, I was short, and had a big mouth. I had a lot of things working against me and what made it worse was my lack of friends. It took many years of torment from a few individuals until I was able to break free and become confident enough to get out from under their control.
         When I was bullied, it was a mixture of physical and verbal abuse that was continuous at school. I was able to find ways of staying out of sight in order to avoid being made fun of. While these tactics worked for me to make it through a school day, children today aren’t nearly as lucky. Not only are they tormented while at school face to face with their assailants, but then they go home and get online to receive even more abuse. The world of social media has spawned a new wave of ways for bullies to attack their victims and create a relentless attack. The blessing of instant access to each other online has become a double edged sword that creates an attack pit for bullies to attack on a round the clock basis.
           If bullies have so many opportunities and avenues to torment, how are we supposed to stop them? Well, a Tulsa public school has done just that, and created a way to anonymously report and describe bullying and where and how it is taking place. This will hopefully allow students to feel comfortable enough to speak up and tell someone, and have the people listening make a difference. Students often feel like they are unable to say anything about bullying, because they don’t know where they can turn in order to find help.

There are ways of dealing with bullying, that aren’t the confrontational and classic “fight back”, because violence rarely solves violence. You can confront the bullying in much the same ways as ju jitsu, and use their force and power and use it against them. We can teach our students to take away the power from the bullies by teaching confidence. But we can’t stop with teaching it, we must help to build it, through creating active relationships and teaching them to not allow the insults to carry weight. While this is easier said than done, it is possible, because I am living breathing proof.

The power of a confiding word is much more powerful than one might expect. Being accessible is the first step that we can take as a teacher to help support our students. We also need to let our students know that there is more to life than school and that there is something to look forward to. Many large companies have stepped forward to pass on the message of “it gets better”. This is a message to help young people who are struggling with their sexuality and the challenges that come with it, and it lets them know that people care and things are only going to go up. This message is vitally important because students need hope and to know that just because things are bad now, it doesn’t mean that this is how things are always going to be. We also need to play an active role in ensuring that we do not allow any form of bullying to take place in or outside of our classroom if we can. I know that from my own experiences growing up, that I will be doing whatever it takes to stop bullying to the best of my abilities.

Friday, May 4, 2012


                Diversity is a topic that America has struggled with since its creation. We claim to be a melting pot of cultures, yet the coming together of multiple cultures or beliefs still stands a hard line. As citizens, we must take a look at our own values and ideals when it comes to the issues of diversity. We must ask ourselves, what diversity even means? Is it the differentiation of different races in an area, or does it have more to do with religion? Maybe instead it is the socioeconomic differences where we find diversity separating people. Regardless of the criteria, diversity is the different characteristics that make someone or something different or unique from another.

                Diversity is something that everyone must deal with and eventually accept, because in certain areas of the United States diversity rules. The Western coast of the U.S. is seeing what is called the “minority majority”. This means that there is no single race or ethnicity that holds the majority of the population. While this might not be a shocking statement if you were talking about a smaller scale, however it isn’t.  Instead we are looking at an entire region of the country. This should give people an idea of the massive numbers of different ethnic groups mixing throughout the population. Over the past few decades, we have seen the largest influx of immigration ever. With people coming from all across the globe, it is safe to say that diversity is going to affect everyone at some point. This is highlighted even more in many of our schools. We are seeing students from every race, religion and family structure that have their own specific needs.

                These needs cover a wide array of differences ranging from mastering a new language, moral beliefs, religious practices, to physical and mental disabilities. As a teacher, you may not encounter every single difference; but you will certainly deal with some of them.  Even in my limited teaching experience, I have already encountered multiple students with very diverse differences and have had to make modifications accordingly. However, just because your class is diverse it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to make modifications. Having diversity in the classroom is a good thing, because it teaches students to be open minded and not make judgments of others based on stereotypes.  Creating an environment that is positive and open allows students to focus on the content rather than each other’s differences.

                Allowing students to think for themselves and create their own choices is something that I foster with all of my students. I try to teach them not only about physical education but about being strong independent citizens. I want them to learn to look through stereotypes and prejudices that others around them may have created. Often I speak to my classes about the important character virtues that they need to learn and live by. I not only teach my students about them, but I try to be a living example of them, not only in school, but outside in my community as well.

                Living amongst a diverse population of students and people is only a portion of how we are affected by diversity. As educators we must also be diverse, but not in who we are, instead by what we do. We need to be diverse the ways and methods that we teach our students. It is known that not all students learn the same way or through the same pathways, so we must diversify how we present the content to them. It is also true that not all students enjoy the same activities; if they did there wouldn’t be so many sports, clubs and groups. Artistic expression is similar in many ways as athletic performance. This is because when people are performing a skill that they are passionate about it is irrelevant whether it is a sport skill, or a show of their voice or dance talents.

As Physical Education teachers, we can diversify our classrooms even more by breaking away from the traditional sports and activities we have played for decades. With new innovations in exercise video gaming we are able to grab the interests of students who may not have been as eager to participate in PE. Things like iDance and DDR allow students who may enjoy dancing and music to have something that not only peaks their interest, but also gives them an excellent workout as well. I look forward to working in a diverse culture, and teaching in a diverse way because I feel that the amount of second hand learning that can take place would be irreplaceable. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Classroom Visit 4/27/12

Today I went to visit my third graders in their general education classroom. When I arrived they were in the computer lab creating slide shows on power point to present their information they compiled from their 50 states project. I thought that this was interesting, because I know many adults that are unable to create a powerpoint. Beyond the content they were learning I was more focused on the student's behavior. For the most part I observed what I had been expecting to see; that there were my typical students who did a good job following directions and listening. There were also the normal students who were misbehaving and off task.

However I did notice that there were a few students who were normally very quiet in the gym, but were very outspoken and active in the classroom. The teacher commented to me that this was normal for these students, and that they were "un-athletic" but were very "book smart". I wasn't sure how to take this comment, because I feel that your athletic ability or academic intelligence should not be relevant to your experience in Physical Education class. I pride myself in including all of my students, not just those who are skilled movers. This was an important note that I will be taking with me back to the gym, because I don't want students to feel that they can't express themselves in the gym simply because they don't think they are "athletic".