Friday, August 30, 2013

In 50 years, people will study this

I do not write this as mockery. I am not trying to demean or in any way reduce the greatness of the original. I write this because it is true and because it highlights the difference between greatness and me.

I too had a dream.

I dreamt that I was clean shaven. I looked at myself for a while and I knew I shouldn't be clean shaven, but I was.

I dreamt that I stayed at a time-share and had to listen to the sales pitch.

I dreamt that people of all colors ran by holding automatic weapons, to go hunting early in the morning.

I dreamt that a man was flying in a personal helicopter and in that dream, that man, he swooped down in that personal helicopter and I thought he was going to crash but he landed in the lake. And he was safe.

I had a dream that the room I was in could be subdivided by expanding walls which were highly flexible so the room could be reset into myriad configurations, and yet each subdivision would still have access to the bathroom. Suddenly, there was no furniture.

Yes, I had a dream in which I chaperoned many students to this time-share village. There were villas on a hill above where I stayed and one would have to drive up a winding road to get to them. And yet, some people just climbed directly up the hill. And the students misbehaved often.

In that dream the edge of the lake was shallow but as I walked through it, it was surprisingly deep and there was no way around it.

And there was some sort of goose or duck or something.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What did I do?

We are deep in the month of Elul, a time in the Jewish calendar when we should be similarly deep in introspection. We should be enmeshed in the process of tshuva -- repentance, or literally, returning. By inspecting our behavior, confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness from each other and from God, we hope to secure for ourselves a successful upcoming year. I would like to refocus the discussion though. I think that the process as such is incomplete.

For years, I have been going through the repentance and confessional liturgy in the same way. I take some time and think about my myriad sins. I feel bad about them. I try to own them and accept the responsibility and blame and make whatever recompense is possible while I try to change my behavior so as not to repeat them. On Yom Kippur, I go through the litany of sins and have one of three reactions as I klop my chest:

1. Yup, I did that. Klop a bit harder
2. Well, I considered that or know someone who did that. Still klop with some force
3. I never did that but I'm saying that someone must have so I'll klop.

I have worked at not having the 4th reaction: "What the heck even IS that? I'll klop to keep the rhythm but, come on!"

But I think I have been missing the point. I have to start asking the central question, what did I do?

Tshuva is about returning. The assumption is that I was in a good place, or even, call it the clean slate-home position at the end of last Yom Kippur. Net sum zero. And over the year, I got dragged into negative territory by my sins so I need to return to zero by saying "sorry" and meaning it. But then I'm still a zero. I need to ask not what did I do wrong, but what did I do?

I also have to know that "doing" isn't about me. Sure, I prayed. Sure, I ate kosher, kept the Sabbath etc. I did a bunch of things which should count in my favor. But did I cut myself off from others in a way that my behavior had no real power or impact? Sure, I need to be for myself because no one else can be for me, but was I only for myself? Is that what I did?

As a parent, did I inspire my children not just to perform ritual but to have understanding? Did I help them access meaning and significance so that they wouldn't be going through the motions but expressing a sincere love in their practice of Judaism? Kids don't always ask questions, and often aren't even persuaded by word-based answers. Did I demonstrate a sincerity which helped the bridge the gap from cold, technical study into inspired and warm living? Did I make them do stuff or help them look forward to doing stuff? As a teacher, did I show my students that religion isn't a compartmentalized set of beliefs and texts but is a way of interacting with the world on all levels which enriches even non-religious intellectual investigation? As a member of a community, did I support other people in their pursuit of improvement in their spirituality?

Did I work hard to be the role model of the person comfortable with the demands of his religion and not only ready to, but excited to have the chance to fulfill them? Did I approach my performance of the mitzvot with a zeal that others could see? Did I give others a reason to think that maybe the choice to be observant might make sense because someone who made that choice can still be a person that others want to be like, all around? I once tried to inspre a bunch of 12th graders simply by saying "I can't convince you to have faith, but I hope you see that I have faith and am a reasonably educated guy who leads a full life. Maybe there is no contradiction so you shouldn't shy away from the possibility." Did I, in my more private moments, still feel what I was doing was more than good, or right, or even necessary, but interesting and special? Did I invite my kids to share it with me so we could discover and explore together or did I make it just what they had to do, like a chore -- something for them to say "when I grow up, there is no way..."?

I hate to say it, but the words of "losing my religion" by R.E.M. are beginning to make sense (I'm not a fan of the song, and if I could find a way of citing Driver 8 as a tool to inspire religious fervor, I would). As a parent and teacher, I am in the corner, separate and apart and yet also in the spotlight. And am I losing my religion (not in the personal sense, but maybe "missing the point of religion" or "contributing to a communal loss of religion") because I said too much and yet I haven't said enough. There might be a second verse but I generally turn the song off well before that.

Now, in the month of Elul, I should be looking at what I have done that requires confession and change. But I also need to look at how I can do more, not just less. How I can show my kids, my students and my peers that I am happy being who I am and doing what I do, and that my connection to my Judaism is neither a burden, nor a simple fact of life, like breathing, but a boon, a prize that I am lucky to have and eager to share.

So my resolution for this year? Don't just stay out of the negative and don't just be happy accentuating the positive. Make ever moment an opportunity to show that engaging in the process is itself something I hold on to for dear life. Not just to be a Jew, but to live as a Jew all the time so that others see that living as a Jew is a pretty darned cool thing.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Dark Side of the Celebrity

As I have said before, I am not a political person by nature, and as I have said before, I am a Zionist and find the BDS movement a crock. I also think a lot about the influence of celebrity on our culture. I do try, though, to separate my appreciation for culture and my limited and often private political views. So, yes, I find Mel Gibson's behavior and personal views abhorrent (though simple minded and amusing) but I still enjoy some of his work in film -- his roles and his acting of those roles. So the recent flap over Roger Waters and his views on Israel has got me thinking. Not about me, mind you. I still will listen to my old Pink Floyd albums. If I had any. I liquidated most of my vinyl collection years ago, my cassettes before that. I survive on radio and MP3's. Occasionally, I look at my CD's.

I still enjoy listening to some Syd Barrett tracks even though in 1975 he espoused shaving of eyebrows, a political position I cannot endorse.

Will I go to a Roger Waters concert? No, but I wasn't planning to, anyway. In the rift between Gilmour and Waters, I favor Gilmour so this was never a question. But, while reading through scads of websites and commentary, I have been struck by the number of people who are seemingly influenced by Roger Waters and his call for other artists to boycott Israel. (By the way, kudos to Bar Rafaeli in asking Waters to remove her picture from his video presentation as she is also a product of Israel.) Are people really that dumb? Sometimes I have hope for humanity -- I see flashes of true thought among people. And sometimes, the idiots drag me down. Today, I feel dragged.

I feel this same sense of frustration when people attack Israel and cite Noam Chomsky. Chomsky is a genius, no question. His work on linguistics is so advanced and intense that I long for the day when I understand even a small percentage of it. But why does that make him an expert on Middle East politics? Why does it confer authority on him and let people view his positions as not being influenced by his own agenda or erroneous presumptions? So the same holds true of Waters. He puts a 6 pointed star (usually associated with Judaism) on his inflatable pig. He is making an association between Jews/Judaism/Israel (already a dangerous conflation on his inflation) and a pig. One could extrapolate from that about a view on other stuff related to pigs or something but the bottom line is, if there is anyone in the audience who suddenly is persuaded to form or reform political views of the Middle East conflict based on seeing that prop, I expect that person to be killed on the way home while trying to kiss the grille of an oncoming car because he is asked "don't you love that new Chrysler?"

Roger Waters is not a bad musician. But he isn't a political pundit and I have no reason to believe that he is well informed about any political situation at all. Why would I let a musician, any musician, influence anything other than my views on his music? I barely let the talking heads on cable news influence my politics, and I don't want to see a professional football player give me dental advice. Would anyone defer on issues of French cuisine to a helicopter pilot simply because he is loud or well known? Do people really want to avoid the effort of learning and thinking, or want to adore celebrity so much that they let an actor make up their minds for them, or a musician lead them towards a political stance?

Don't get me wrong -- I understand that celebrities are individuals and have their own feelings about things and more to them for wanting to be involved (just watching Matt Damon speak on behalf of teachers, or Patrick Stewart discuss the problem of domestic abuse makes me want to send them signed, blank checks), but they should be role models in that they stand up for something and encourage others to do the research to develop (theoretically) nuanced views of the world capable of being passionately and intelligently defended. Not that because they stand up for something and are famous, their position is necessarily given more credence and weight or adopted wholesale.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blenderized Learning

A short discourse on how I understand the concept of "blended learning."

For a while, now, experts in the field have been touting this advance in pedagogy called "blended learning." I have done some reading and come to terms with how I understand it and what my concerns with it are. I thought I'd commit them to writing so I can both self-critique by reviewing my thoughts, and invite explanation and commentary.

Blended learning, in its simplest form, is the shifting of the presentation of material from the classroom teacher to another mode. Sounds fancy, but it isn't. It also isn't new. Remember when your history teacher assigned chapters for you to read at home so he could discuss them? Blended learning. When your gemara rebbe told you to make a laining on the next 4 lines at home? Blended learning. When your English teacher told you to listen to the audio of Dylan Thomas reading "Do Not Go Gentle" before the next class's discussion? Blended learning. Worksheets which introduced the next topic in Physics or the vocabulary for the next Spanish story? Blended.

It has been a while since the classroom teacher felt that he or she needed pure frontal lecture to convey all the foundational knowledge. Blended learning has always been (sans the fancy name) a way of introducing other voices into that frontal presentation. Then, during classroom time, the teacher can assume that the material has been presented (and acquired...more on this later) and can engage in "guided practice," that is, the repetition and application of skills under the watchful eye of the teacher.

The newest incarnation of blended learning is called "blended online learning" in which the teacher has the students receive the material not from a textbook or a worksheet, but from a computerized source. The student often watches a video (which puts this on par with presenting a VHS to each student) or watches an app-rich presentation and often takes formative assessments which check for understanding (depending on the app). The extension to this is the "flipped classroom" in which the teacher, himself, creates the presentational content so the outside viewing is a displaced in-class presentation (just without the give-and-take of an actual classroom).

First the positives. We all do it at times because it is very useful. Certain disciplines, certain topics and certain alternate presentations work really well for certain students. Some students can be given the text book and told "see you in June" and they will fly high. Some won't even need the textbook.

Now my concerns:

1. shifting a unilateral presentation from the teacher to the internet is no less a lecture.
2. a student watching a video or a presentation cannot stop to ask question, investigate an unexpected tangent more deeply or ask for a different presentation of material.
3. the formative assessments are static
4. misunderstanding externally prepared material can lead (in the math area, specifically) to engrained mistakes which then have to be unlearned
5. this method assumes mastery outside and then moves to practice. A traditional teacher might see that students aren't "getting it" and change delivery, change the content or otherwise better prepare students for practice.
6. class time ends up being fragmented as distinctions in ability and understanding are highlighted by practice, so the teacher differentiates not in instruction or even content, but in the reviewing, after the distinctions are exacerbated
7. turning the teacher into a roving monitor means that a substantial number of students are not being guided at any one time. Any teacher who has assigned group work and has moved from group to group understands what this means.
8. external delivery systems set the agenda. If a teacher creates content then he does set the agenda but cannot change it based on student response.
9. in the liberal arts, group exploration and meaning(s) development is a foundational group activity, not a solitary one, and should be guided [I have discussed that]
10. instruction stops being about establishing relationships with students to inspire passion because it is the function of an outside resource.

Is this model more time and cost efficient? Yes and no. Theoretically, if I could be sure that every student "got it" by watching an outside presentation, I could leverage class time more effectively as a means for deep discussion or I could assess performance via review and move to the next topic more quickly. The curriculum could be covered either more thoroughly or more analytically. Sounds good. But this presumes that a single mode of external presentation will be more effective than standard instruction (which is NOT lecture based, mentioned tangentially here). This also assumes that practice and true understanding will follow closely and allow me to move to more advanced discussion instead of having to retread what I figured would have been gained at home. Not every student learns well in any particular mode -- there are learning styles out there and some don't favor the internet's presentation.

This also assumes an access to technology at home, and the time to devote to that technology. How many students do their homework at school or on the bus, or at a busy dining room table as they help care for siblings? How many don't do it at all for one reason or another? This flipped model puts the responsibility for focus and complete acquisition on the student while he or she is not under the watchful eye of the instructor. The costs to make all technology available in school and at home (including subscriptions to services, apps purchases, hardware etc.) are daunting and while grants exist, federal funding is still geared towards textbooks.

Blended learning isn't evil or wrong. Neither is lecture. And neither is group discussion or fishbowl or any other method. We assign our students topics to prepare so that we can hold a classroom debate. We tell our students to forge ahead in the textbook, or even, to use supplementary technology to help flesh out understanding. We realize, as teachers, that our voices should not be the only ones students hear. But we have a job to do, and that is to guide instruction from the ground up and create a classroom cohesiveness and a group identity while we are sympathetic to the individual needs (educational and not) of each student. But, as I have said before, each method is a single arrow in a full quiver. To base a course (let alone school) on any one method is dangerous because it forgets that students crave variety and a class must be dynamic and engaging, and human. So go and use some blended learning (either electronically infused or not) and use some frontal teaching, and some guided exercises and later guided application and practice. But don't assume that we can subcontract our future to the virtual voices because somehow, that will work better than actual interaction.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Things I have learned about Les Mis

As the summer winds down, I have had the chance to see the fruits of my younger daughter's labor. In her drama camp this summer, she worked with co-campers to put on a musical production -- Les Mis. The Black Box camp here in Teaneck is a fabulous resource for kids and adults. They put on incredible shows with lights, music, and a sense of professionalism which impresses. They have put on a wide variety of shows, from classics like 1776 to original pieces written by local playwrights. So, super to them and all that.

I have gone through my life with a few hard and fast rules. One is that with the exception of The Blues Brothers, The Muppet Movie and Singing in the Rain, I avoid musicals. I have made exceptions for The Music Man and that one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I enjoy the musical numbers sprinkled into The Simpsons and Family Guy, but that's about it. And I also avoid huge French novels about the underclass. That's also a thing. So up till now, I have had little experience with Les Mis. My knowledge of the story has come from a single scene which I saw from the recent movie and the cultural bits which everyone is supposed to know (a guy named John, Val, John, and a cop who chases after him because he owes him some bread or something). So now that I have seen the teen production twice, I feel like an expert and I would like to share what I have learned.

[Kids, if you stumbled on this looking for an erudite and expansive plot synopsis of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo because you don't want to read the whole thing and this site came up higher on Google than, say, Wikipedia, then you came to the right place. Begin writing your paper........NOW!]

1. It works a lot better if you have already seen it. If this is your first time seeing Les Mis, don't. See it the second time first so the first time, you will understand it. I'm not sure of the mechanism which will allow that, but I'm just the advice guy.

2. There are lots of little characters. Don't worry about learning their names. They all die. And there are no small parts. Just small parts covered in a lot of fake blood.

3. Don't be surprised that there is no dialogue. How could there be? These guys didn't speak English.

4. There are only 4 songs in the show. They just repeat. They are catchy songs and reminded me of such musical themes as "Let it Grow" by Clapton and the Oompa-Loompa song. Among others.

5. Life lesson -- if you decide to break your parole by running away and reinventing yourself, run away. Don't hang around and hope no one recognizes you.

6. Cops are mean and untrustworthy and hate you even after you are let out of jail having supposedly paid for your crime, but don't worry. Eventually they feel bad if you are nice enough to them and they end up living happily every after.

7. Coincidences abound in war time. If you just hang around a city of millions long enough, you meet the same people over and over again.

8. Kids shoot the darndest things.

9. If you are pining away for the boy of your dreams, just be his best friend while he courts another. That usually works out fine. And the best time to pursue a love affair? During turbulent times. We all need that anchor of a solid relationship to keep us grounded when all around us is covered in fake blood.

10. The story is timeless but somehow they attached "three+ hours" to it.

11. Never pass up an opportunity to carry a wounded person through the sewers. If you haven't done that, you haven't earned any street cred.

I honestly enjoyed myself (more during the second show because I had an inkling of what was going on) and I look forward to tonight's show because I believe there is more to learn (I have to cement my theory that death is actually a series of duets).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Get your nose out of the internet

I have been peppering this blog with a number of rather serious minded posts and I feel bad about that. I run the risk of establishing a reputation as something more than an idiot. And then, people start expecting things. I can't have that. In that vein, I would like to return to a musing about a sociological ill that, on the surface looks ridiculous, but when you think about it, you begin to realize how astute and accurate it is, and then you think about it more and decide that, no, that's just stupid.

We are teaching our kids to read too much.

Look, I like reading. Some of my best friends are words. Many, in fact. Not many of my friends, but the word "many." I like that word. It isn't quite "all" but it is more than "some" and doesn't demand the statistical exactitude of "half" or even "most." Anyway, I find that my kids are spending huge amounts of time looking at their phones and reading texts, articles, comments and fan fiction. Not blog posts, though. Why is that?

When I was a boy, I learned to pay attention to the world around me. I kept my head up and I really tried to focus on everything going on. I learned to anticipate behaviors by watching people and accounting for the myriad variables. I developed not only good eyesight, but a good memory for what I saw. And I learned to turn on and off my more acute hearing so I could focus on the added dimension of sound. Now, I see my kids walking through traffic with their eyes glued to a mini screen of some sort. They don't hear when someone is talking to them and they have no clue as to what the world has to offer.

This becomes even more problematic when we get to the topic of driving. I love to drive. Driving is a constant chess match, except that the chess pieces weigh thousands of pounds and they are always all moving and rearranging themselves. But good driving requires intense focus and the mental gymnastics of balancing which car is where and when and how is its driver behaving. Defensive driving is all about guessing what someone else is going to do not only before he does it, but before he even knows he is going to do it. So when I drive with a child in the car, I ask said child to watch the road. To pick up on the subtleties which abound on the open road. Instead, the kids keep staring at their phones. It is great that they are interacting with others and with the written word (and with the snapchats which all demand, by law, that one makes duck lips, stick his or her tongue out or do something else dumb looking) but I want them to be prepared as drivers. Our adult population is already plagued by the distraction of texting and emailing while driving and we have all come to the technological party relatively recently. The next generation of drivers will be so used to texting constantly that they won't know how to drive well. They won't be able to separate themselves from the online experience.

So what's the solution. One person out there is probably smirking and saying "yes, but the wave of the future will be cars that drive themselves." Wow, how insightful of you. Yes driverless cars might very well be the next big thing, but if you are stuck at that level of thinking then you aren't seeing the big picture. What company is at the forefront of the driverless car wave?

Google. The same company that is working to enslave our children's eyes with phones and web content. See? They make the problem, then invent the solution and get us to buy their product at either end! They make us dependent on the crutch of social interaction and then invent google glass so we never have to be without it.

It is nefarious -- a word which the young people will have to look up in their online dictionaries.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Why my friend Senja is so S-M-R-T

I have been hearing lately that I'm a failure so I decided to investigate these claims. I figured if I am going to be a failure, at least I should know why I am a failure and how I can be the best failure ever. In what sense am I failure? Well, apparently, the American education system is in a shambles and I, as a teacher, am to blame. I will skip a whole lot of the intermediate stuff like how anyone quantifies that I am a failure, how anyone creates expectations against which to measure, what can be attributed to the classroom teacher etc. I won't wade into questions of value added teacher quantification, or mention the poverty gap in public education as it correlates to performance. I'll ignore issues of common core and standardized testing and I won't touch the question of selected populations, teacher salaries and ineffective professional education which devalues teachers. I figured if enough people decided I was a failure then they must know, right? But instead of waiting to hear how anyone measured my failure, I decided to go to the google and ask it who are the successes. And I found Finland.

So I did a whole bunch of reading about Finland. Nice place, apparently. Cold. Lots of schools and lots of students who do well in school. Do they do well in life? I'd like to think so. They seem like such an industrious people. I only know one Finn and she's American. I met her dad once. Nice guy. Too thin. Articles like this one helped me understand how the Finnish education system is rolling along so merrily. I enjoyed reading the comments on it which both defended and attacked the system as that fleshed out the debate and showed that even a statistical slam dunk is up for angry web-based argument.

I figured if I wanted to be a success, then I should emulate what went on in a Finnish school. I realized that that would require my teaching Lutheranism and learning Swedish so I demurred. But I also know that the Next Big Thing in education is "blended learning." I figured that if Finland has a successful school system and blended learning is the cutting edge of successful teaching, then the two should coincide somehow. Back to the google. I found this title but I don't have the article and it is from 1998 which is, I believe, before there were computers and thinking and stuff, so I ignored it. I kept looking and I found this -- and I read the whole durned thing. Neat stuff. It points out how blended learning (the combination of face-to-face teaching along with online resources for pre- and post- "teaching") has been really useful in enhancing reflection and collaboration. So THIS must be how they do it in Finland. Well, apparently, it is, in Finnish universities. The entire report was on implementation in higher education and the iteration of blended learning here is not about the differentiated and tailored delivery of content, but about the presentation of background material and the availability of technologically mediated cross talk and cooperation among students outside of traditional class time. Just control-f the document for the word "lecture." It is in there. And the words "computer" and "blended" are not in the Smithsonian article. It isn't that Smithsonian doesn't know about blended learning. They wrote this article (2 years later, true) but if Finland is that far ahead of us that we are trying blended learning in an effort to catch up, you'd think that it would have played some part in their successful system. It seems that it didn't. Somehow, they got there mostly unplugged. The article actually says that on the high school level, the expectation is that "blended learning" will be one in which schools "operate a self-blend model, where a student takes one or two online courses—often Advanced Placement or credit recovery courses—to supplement their in-class education." Strangely enough, many high schools do this already and have for a while, and yet we are still failures.

I wasn't giving up on Finland, though, so I kept reading. I came upon this which gave me more information about the use of blended learning and computer instruction in...oh...higher education. My google search also pointed to an article which is entitled "What does Finland claim is the secret to its educational success?" According to my search, this also mentioned "blended learning," so I figured that that had to be part of the secret. Then I read the article. The author decided to throw in, at the end, the following: "Many American educators are giving a closer look at some Finnish education values. For one, blended learning, which incorporates a variety of teaching mediums into educational theory, is also right in line with Finland’s progressive ideals approach." So, no they don't do it, but this guy thinks that they would approve. Then I watched a video about the Finnish system. I figured that I would see classrooms rife with technology and stress on student driven courses of study. I saw some computers at 4:14. Is that their blended learning? It didn't much look like it. I also saw many classrooms jammed with students listening to a teacher at the front. Some kids even had (gasp) pens and paper. I decided to give up on Finland. No offense, guys, but all you seem to be stressing is teacher professionalism and student engagement. How is that going to help me succeed. I try that all the time and apparently, I am not succeeding.

So I started trying to read up on blended learning sans Finland. First, I read about a school in Yuma, Arizona which is using a hybrid model of blended learning. A hybrid model combines aspects of computer instruction with continued teacher interaction. This is similar to (though not identical with) the rotational model. The article does mention that there are critiques of the system by educators who say that the system does not foster critical thinking skills, but what do educators know about, um, education. It isn't like they are Finnish educators, or anything. And how is the blended system different from, say, letting students watch videos on a VCR at home, or read the textbook on their own, at their own pace? Clearly this is superior because it allows students to take multiple choice quizzes so the student, the teacher and the computer know how much the student gained from the video/online presentation. This will allow the teacher to use classroom time to move between students and answer specific questions about material. You can see how this would be effective in a debate over the merits of the Articles of Confederation. Watch the video, and wait for the teacher to move to you and answer what is probably a simple question with a short answer before the teacher moves on to someone else. Perfect. Now you know all there is to know about the pre-Constitutional American government.

I traced the information back from that article to the Hechinger Report. They claim the data which will prove the efficacy of the blended system. Oh goodie. Data! Wrong data. The article is about how many schools in California use some sort of computer/technology in instruction and how this relates to the author's predictions (the titular "theory") about how blended learning will be implemented. Much seems to be in the hybrid form -- that's the form that has teachers using some technology as they continue with traditional teaching forms as well. This seemed familiar to me, so I looked in the mirror. Oh, yeah. That's what we are all already doing. Pity we are failing. The author by the way seems to be a real serious journalist. Educator, not so much but hey, who writes best about educational trends, and who makes the most accurate prediction about future success of various models? That's right: investment bankers. I looked at another piece on the site to learn about Next Generation teaching. This article was in Forbes so I figured it had all the answers. Not so much. To wit: "despite what we’re starting to see in the field as some consistent models of blended learning that can bolster student learning, we’ve yet to see anyone create “the solution”—and we’re unlikely to ever see that I suspect." Oh, ok. Not even in Finland? So I went to the website of the innovators in the filed of disruptive innovation. In truth, I suspected that my students were already innovators in disruption but I am willing to learn. The Clayton Christensen Institute provided me with lots of links and taught me all about non-consumers and hybrids and like that. I looked in their media room to see how the news outlets are spreading this gospel and I found a really neat blog post in Education Week. Education Week! that's by educators! I read through it. It really pointed out to me how blended learning will allow students to respond to their teachers after reflection and private consideration and not under the time pressure of the classroom. It mentioned how "forums and wikis replace raising hands in a classroom. More students can contribute to a discussion - with deeper thought. The structure allows for students to respond to each other and to the teacher as well." So that is the blended learning that is so great? We use wikis. We use blogs. And we still fail?

Then I thought, maybe I'm not a failure as an English teacher in a private high school. Maybe I am just a failure in my institution's inability to inculcate a love of religion and a sense of spirituality in students. I know that when I left 8th grade and when I left high school, many of my friends lacked this same love. I guess schools have been failing for a while. I'm looking now for a model school system which takes 13 year-olds, demands rigorous study in secular fields, and complements it with the demand of adherence to (before, during and after the education about) religious dogma, ideas and ideals. I need to pattern myself after another school system that tries to teach students about their world as a whole and also gets them to love their pervasive religious obligations. Remember, this has to be the job of the school. We are the ones responsible to teach a love of religious practice, right? So if you know of a system I can study, please let me know. I do so hate being a failure.