Tag Archives: awesome elementary

Killing It Softly With These Words*

Time is a dead man, dudes.

A. Dead. Man.

And you can tell I mean it because that last sentence was made up of single-word sentences combined to make one sentence. That’s a sure sign that something is appallingly serious. Dead serious, even.

Still, joking aside (Hah! As if that’s possible here at the Dude’s Guide [It is, but it’s not very likely.].), today’s post is all about killing time until tomorrow’s big deal.

What, exactly, is tomorrow’s big deal? Sorry, dudes and dudettes, you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to find that out. Yes, I am a tease. Just ask my wife, known to all as She Who Must Be Getting Tired Of This By Now, and she’ll tell you. I’m 100 percent tease. Okay, not really, but I think you’re getting the point.

Wait. Until. Tomorrow. (There’s those one-word sentences again. I must be serious.) (ish. Seriousish.)

So, let’s get to the short little infonuggets.

° There are two ways to spell one (one, won). There are three ways to spell two, too, to. But there is only one way to spell three.

° Allow me to repeat: Haikus are fun. Here’s one I wrote on the occasion of a recent eight-mile jog in the dusk by my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Running, and La Jefe, my former boss at Awesome Elementary.

Invisible Taxonomy, a haiku based on a true story

Two women run eight miles
Scary eyes stare from the dark
Not a deer? Run! Run!

° Hyper Lad’s school is a lot more into current events than any of my schools (and I’m including the University of Florida here) ever were. I mean, he’ll come home from school and start quizzing me about something that he read in a newspaper (either print or pixel), wanting to know if I know as much about something as he does. Just last week, we discussed the chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River. He even knew the name of the chemical.

That’s a good thing.

The knowledge, not the spill.

° My number one frivolous wish right now (as opposed to the life-changing ones we all harbor, like winning the lottery without wasting any money buying a ticket) is to be able to smell the world like a dog for a day or so.

Buzz, The Garbage Disposal That Walks Like A Dog, has his nose planted (no pun intended) in the ground almost every step he takes on our many walks during the day. He’ll sniff something and then hare off after the scent, looking for all the world like he’s found the most amazing thing in the world.

I really want to know: what does the world look like to a being that can follow the scent of living things hours after they’ve been through the area. Is the world filled with ghostly images? Are there doggy genius loci at all the telephone poles?

Too bad I’ll never know, but that’s what wishes are for.

° Finally, a pretty cool announcement for those of you living in Charlotte. Because they haven’t suffered enough punishment, the fine folks behind the Charlotte Parent Magazine have decided to give the dudes behind the Guide (that’s us) the back page of their magazine for the next five months. Maybe more, depending on if they don’t get too many complaints.

So, if you live in the Charlotte area, pick up a copy starting in February and let us know what you think. We also should be available on the website.

BTW, that wasn’t the big deal that’s coming tomorrow. It’s a separate big deal.

* A very generous Dude No Prize to the first commenter who correctly identifies from where I stole borrowed this title.

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Anti-Bullying Programs In Schools Might Not Actually Work

School bullies were the bane of my early existence.

Until I learned a pretty powerful secret* about bullying, I pretty much just had to put up with it. There wasn’t much that teachers could or would do. Having Mom or Dad come in and say something to the school would just have been mortifying.

Bullying long went undiscussed at most schools. It was, the thinking went, just something that happened to kids in schools. It built character. Toughened up the little wimps.

Until it didn’t. Until people acknowledged that bullied kids can strike back, at themselves or at the kids and adults around them. Since then, anti-bullying programs have been a staple in most schools in America. The good news is that incidences of bullying have actually been decreasing.

The bad news is that all these shiny and wonderful anti-bullying programs might not be the cause of that decline.

A new study recently published in the Journal of Criminology suggests that the anti-bullying programs that have become popular in many schools may not be as useful as previously thought. The authors examined 7000 kids at 195 different schools to try to determine child and school influences on bullying. Surprisingly, the authors found that children who attended schools with anti-bullying programs were more likely to experience bullying than children who attended schools without such programs. 

As you might expect, the data is correlational. That is, kids who participate in anti-bullying programs might be more likely than non-program students to report what they consider to be bullying. Schools with a bigger bully problem might be more inclined to implement an anti-bullying program. That sort of thing.

However, that said, this study does raise some pretty serious concerns about the efficacy of such programs.

Granted, not all programs are alike and some may be better than others. Programs that appear to inflate bullying statistics, use fear messages to sell their product and make exaggerated claims of successfulness should particularly raise alarm bells for schools.  Programs that attempt to understand the motives behind bullying, focus on reinforcing positive behavior among students while also training staff to address all aggression, not just bullying, may have the best promise for success.

And it’s that last that really gives me some hope for the whole idea of anti-bullying programs. One with which I had some close association was the program run at Awesome Elementary School (aka Huntingtowne Farms Elementary) here in Charlotte. These kids were exposed every single day to some sort of message that bullying was wrong. As a consequence, I several times saw students step into an altercation and point out that one of the kids was being a bully.

The accused bully often stopped what he or she had been doing and walked off. That’s not to say that they didn’t just start up again later, but it was a pretty clear win for the idea that bullying isn’t a normal part of school. If little dudes and dudettes don’t feel safe at school, they’re not going to be able to learn. And then what’s the point?

Just knowing that bulling is something up with which the school will not put can make for a pretty powerful inhibition against this sort of behavior. As parents, we can take a hand in working with this issue. Not just telling our children that bullying is wrong, but pointing out bullying behavior and offering alternatives.

We’ve been through bullying. Do we really want our kids doing it also when we can work to prevent it?



*That secret? Don’t sweat the small stuff and, when it’s not small stuff, stand up and beat the crap out of whatever type of scumbag is pushing you around. If you lose the fight, then pick it all over again until it’s no longer worth the hassle. Admittedly, not the secret for everyone.

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Trouble With The Cur-cive

Rachel Jeantel was a recent witness in the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida.

Called to the stand to talk about her final conversation with her friend Trayvon Martin, shot by Zimmerman in the latter’s community in Florida, Jeantel said she could not read cursive writing.

That’s the main takeaway from the fourth day of the George Zimmerman trial: Jeantel, the heavyset, snappy prosecution witness who was on the phone with her friend Trayvon Martin minutes before he died, cannot read script handwriting. Defense attorney Don West underlined that fact for the benefit of the jury, the general public, and everyone else looking for an excuse to dismiss her testimony.

A short tangent: The fact that Zimmerman was found not guilty . . . Wow. I don’t for a second think Zimmerman went out there with the intention of murdering someone. I do, however, think that him having a gun is what led to Martin’s death. Because of the idiotic Stand Your Ground and concealed carry laws, Zimmerman felt safe carrying along a gun. Without that gun, Zimmerman wasn’t on trial and Trayvon Martin still is alive. No gun sounds like a win-win situation. It was the stupid laws that enabled Zimmerman to walk around feeling like a Wild West gunfighter that really were to blame. Thanks, Florida Legislature. Back to the post.

The right-wing blogosphere took that as just another example — including her looks, her diction and her perceived lack of education — of how she was only one step above a slug on the social evolution scale. Sadly, I’m not kidding. But I’m also not here to talk about the Martin case, nor Jeantel.

I’m here to talk about the reaction by people around the nation to the idea that Jeantel can’t read cursive. I’m guessing that most of the horrified gentry casting aspersions down on Jeantel are a bit, well, older, to be kind. When they and I grew up, cursive was a necessity. The refined gentleman or lady had an impeccable hand and enjoyed writing letters to friends.

Heck, Twenty years ago, a $300 Montblanc pen was one of the most coveted and costly graduation gifts. But today, few clamor over them, much less an expensive one. It turns out they want MacBooks and iPads — new writing tools of the digital age.

My own three young dudes can’t read cursive either. Most of their age cohort are deficient in the skill as well. Schools, as I found out in my last year or so as a Title 1 Tutor at Awesome Elementary here in Charlotte, don’t put nearly as much effort into teaching handwriting as once they did.

And why should they? Computers are easier to use, faster to get your thoughts down in writing, and the only way your words can’t be read is if you’ve smudged the print out, rather than that your handwriting is terrible. Mine certainly is. Heck, I can barely write cursive myself.

As a youth, I lived in England for a year. The school I attended was going to begin cursive lessons in its equivalent of fourth grade. I was in the equivalent of third. When I returned to America, I found that cursive had been taught the year before. Whoops. I managed to pick it up as the years went along, but never easily and never neatly.

I eagerly made the jump to keyboards the minute it was available. So I completely understand why people don’t see the necessity of learning cursive, I know that Rachel Jeantel is not alone in her ability to read it. She merely was the first person these hoity-toity bloggers had ever “met” who was of that age and was honest about her ability.

Of course, there are those who are not so eager to ditch cursive. And they might have a point.

In fact, a field of research, called “haptics,” focuses on the connection of touch, hand movement and brain function. Studies show that handwriting engages different circuits of the brain than typing simply doesn’t. And those strokes and pressures of the pen actually send messages to the brain, training it in vision and sensation.

In fact, the study of handwriting, called graphology, claims to infer character traits — like laziness, creativity or organization — just by looking at your written words. That repetitive process of writing builds motor pathways into the brain, said Katya Feder, a professor at the University of Ottawa School of Rehabilitation. And the more children write, the more connections they build.

Before anyone gets all crazy about the way the brain lights up differently when people use handwriting compared to typing, we need to realize that there probably are different, but roughly equivalent, light ups in the typing folks.

There’s much more to the dying art of handwriting, a sort of eulogy to the skill, over at Techland, a blog for Time.com. You dudes should definitely go over there and take a look. Lots of interesting stuff.

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