Tuesday, August 14, 2007

First Day at Litton

I spent the first day of the MNPS school year at Isaac Litton Middle School along with Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell , MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia , BOE members Gracie Porter and Mark North a gaggle of reporters, some Nascar drivers and a couple of hundred jazzed students and staff.

I arrived at 8:00 but the Nascar folks had already been there for an hour and a half setting up their display. Isaac Litton Middle School is the first school to participate in their Read to Race program (their press release is here). Here's a link to the Channel 4 coverage of that program. The children could be rewarded with 4 tickets to a race, starting a race, waving the checkered flag and riding in the pace car depending upon how much they read and comprehend. Joe Mattioli, President of Music City Motorplex, and his 'crew' are very excited at the possibilities of a partnership with schools and the Litton staff and the racers will be working on using racing as a hook for subjects like science and history. They hope to replicate this program in more Metro schools.

The announcement of the program and the welcoming assembly were held in the Litton Gymnasium. It was pretty hot in there last year but this year MNPS came through with a temporary air conditioning system that made it tolerable. We'd been told it was leaving with the dignitaries. Our concern was for the students and several of the PTA moms and myself were talking with the Mayor about the situation. He immediately proved that he doesn't have a short timer's attitude at all and headed across the gym, chatted with Central Office staff that was there and came back to announce that the temporary AC was staying until the permanent AC was installed. Some very grateful women had a mini-celebration with some hooting and raising of hands. Litton is the last middle school to get their gym retrofitted with AC and they expect that to be done in 6-8 weeks. We've all heard the reasoning for starting in August, getting testing done before the Christmas break, but with August being the hottest season and the expense required to cool these facilities you can't help but wonder if that's really the best plan.

Regarding SSA I only saw about 4 or 5 students not in SSA and only heard one "Pull up your britches." Litton students were in SSA last year so for most of them this wasn't a new thing. They looked great and all the comments from visitors, staff and parents that I heard were positive. These folks liked the look they saw there and at school bus stops in their neighborhoods on the drive in.

Thanks, again to Jacque & Jim Schultz owners of The YarD Shops for the beautiful and delicious buffet for the guests and staff. I know the Litton folks appreciate their support and service.

If you have even just an hour a month to spend helping a school I would encourage you to call the nearest one and ask what you can do to support them. It encourages them and makes you a more knowledgeable voter and taxpayer, all of which benefits the children in the long run.


Nashteach said...

Super. I had two first days- one at the school I work in, Hume-Fogg. I am excited about the new year. I'm teaching freshman English and a new social studies class for all ninth graders on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our air conditioning is out in the halls, auditorium, and some classrooms (though not mine), and my classes are much bigger than last year. The vast majority of kids are in SSA, a few wearing protest buttons. I had to tell one young lady that, yes, the belt had to be buckled, other than that no problems on my front. We changed our policy and are allowing students on the waiting list to replace "no shows" up to three days into this week. Hopefully classes will be more balanced by then.

I also took my son to school for his first day of kindergarten. We love Eakin and his new teacher! At orientation that night, various PTA as well as staff members were introduced...we especially liked the cafeteria manager, who is clearly an integral part of the Eakin family and expressed such affection for the children in her care. And, yes, we filled many of the boxes on the volunteer request form... he went to a cooperative the last three years, so we're already well versed in how to contribute. After the first day (a half day), he said "I want to go for longer tomorrow." Whew!


din819go said...

Kay -- you won't believe this but the social studies class being taught in metro now is We the People -- this is a horrible joke on american history.

Kay Brooks said...

Well, that's odd. Houghton Mifflin's "We the People" is not on the list of textbooks used in MNPS that I just received in the mail from Textbook Services.

THIS "We the People"?

Can you be more specific about what school/grade?

Kay Brooks said...

Just got a note back from Textbook Services. If someone is using "We the People" they don't know about it.

Nashteach said...

Just got a note back from Textbook Services.

Ah, I was wondering why they hadn't found time to send my students English textbooks. First things first I guess.

The course is a high school course in government focusing on the Founding fathers and the Constitution. Much recent media has focused on the lack of knowledge in history/government of U.S. high school graduates. We thought we'd do something about it. It is unfortunate someone thinks that is a joke. The course was unanimously approved May 8, 2007 by the Board.

The textbook is declared in the course description. Metro schools did not have to pay for the texts; they were given by the Center for Civic Education on the condition that the teachers attended a workshop at David Lipscomb University this summer. The text has been used by some as a supplemental for years. I think we are the only ones actually teaching the course this year but other high schools have taken part in the competitive program; it is not "the social studies course taught by metro."

The program

Sample lessons from the text

We intend to use the basics of this program, but also make it a course with instruction in research, something we feel our students need more of. Metro schools placed the Government course at the senior level, we felt students needed some better understanding of government prior to their taking World History (10th) and U.S. History (11th).

I cannot fathom why Dingo thinks it is a joke. We are upping standards as opposed to watering them down, we are beefing up our curriculum based on observations of our students' needs. If it is an ideological complaint, the poster is misinformed, unless he finds the Constitution and its amendments a radical document. Sorry, we aren't censoring the Constitution. The National Advisory Board has included such diverse people as, yes, Ted Kennedy, but also folks like Warren Burger, Sandra Day O'Connor, Lynne Cheney, Orrin Hatch, Dan Quayle, and even Strom Thurmond. Hardly an indication it is an instrument of liberalism, if that was the implication. It does have a unit on civic involvement (something I see you encourage there in your last paragraph), but we aren't sure how much of that we can cover since we are adding the research component and it is a semester course.

Further, the culminating activity is not a multiple choice test, but a presentation about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Students will prepare a presentation, and be questioned by legal professionals in the community. They will have to think on their feet. They will compete with other groups in our school, but we have not decided whether or not to enter the students in the outside competitive part of the program.

I hope this answers your questions.

Nashteach said...

Sorry, here is the correct link for the program.