Friday, January 28, 2011

Dream a Little Dream...

I have to admit I'm hooked on reality television...well, not ALL reality television shows, just a couple of select ones. There are times when mindlessly staring at a screen offsets the intensity of the day. So stare I do.

Recently, I've been watching American Idol, a singing competition that highlights contestants who are singing in front of a team of judges. At this point in the season, the judges have the task of choosing which of the contestants are invited to continue in the competition, which ones will be allowed to travel to Hollywood and compete against others who are lucky enough to be invited, too.

What I've noticed during this particular season is that men, women, boys, and girls alike are crying crocodile tears, some begging, BEGGING, for the chance to make the Hollywood trip.

"Please. Puuhhhh-llllleasssseeee," they beg. "This is my DREEEAAAMMMMM. I've been dreaming to sing my entire LIFE!"

Interestingly, the minimum age limit has been reduced this year. Some of these dreamers have been dreaming for all of 15 years.

I continually talk to my students about dreams. I have all the staples of a middle school classroom: the future NFL and NBA stars, the rappers-to-be, the singers, dancers, and celebrities in the making.

I ask my NBA stars in training how many hours they practice every day, how long they dribble and pass after school. They grin and tell me they don't practice. Some aren't even on the middle school basketball team.

I continue by asking them if they think the NBA Fairy is going to show up on their porches, knock on their front doors, and then tap them with a wand. Poof - you're now a player in the NBA.

It's at this point that I draw my diagram on the board - my "Dream Alignment Diagram." First, I draw a big circle on the board, near the top. In the circle I write the word "DREAM." I tell the students, "This is it. Your dream. Whatever your dream's right here in this circle."

Then I draw arrows, beginning at the bottom of the board and pointing up toward the circle. I tell them that if they really want to reach their dreams everything they do must be pointing toward them. We discuss what those arrows represent: practice, work ethic, focus, etc.

Then I draw an arrow pointing straight to the side.

"Oh!" I say. "You don't want to do your work in school? You just took a detour away from your dream."

Then I reach to the other side and draw another horizontal arrow. "Think you need to get in a fight and end up in In School Suspension? There's another detour!"

I refer to the Dream Alignment Diagram periodically throughout the year, especially when it's apparent that my tweenagers need to focus. And I tell them that their dreams will not fall into their laps. Attaining them will take a great deal of work and an awful lot of time.

Dreams are not for the lazy. Dreams are not for the impatient.

And dreams are not for beggars.

They're for those who are committed to doing whatever it takes to make things happen.

And that means all their arrows point up. All the time.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Welcome to Broadway!

I just tossed my mother's 2010 calendar into the dumpster. I hated to do it. It was entitled "Birds of the Wild" and there was a cover picture of a beautiful red bird sitting in snow. The toss itself was symbolic: Goodbye 2010! What wonderful changes can I make in 2011? And I knew deep down in my teacher heart - something HAS to CHANGE!

I'm not a confrontational person. I'm a peacemaker. And I can usually understand both sides of an argument. I have the utmost respect for all opinions and will defend to exhaustion anyone's right to have them.

But this past year has made me weary. I'm a soldier in what some have called "teacher wars." We have been participating in an ascending battle over the definition of effective teaching, whether teachers should be evaluated on test scores, whether we are highly qualified as determined by federal law, whether our schools are failing our children, and on and on.

Today I have on a red shirt - it's Red for Public Ed Day! This peaceful way of promoting education is only one of many ways I've chosen to fight the nay-sayers. I have blogged and panel discussed and webinared and essay written to promote public education. But as I watched that calendar sail into the trashy abyss, I realized that I have to do something else.

I have to dance.

The energy I expended being mad at Michelle Rhee this past year, for example, was energy I could've used to push my grandchildren on the swingset. The blood pressure numbers I earned after watching the trailer for Waiting for Superman could've looked much different if I had offset them with exercise and healthy eating.

A new doormat I recently purchased reads "Live, Laugh, Love" not "Hate, Be Stressed Out, and Die." So things are changing in 2011.

I just signed up for a dance class called "Broadway Dance." I'll be learning choreography to show tunes; I'll be high-kicking in production numbers - I'll be living, laughing, and loving!

Oh, I'll still stay on top of what's going on in the education world. And I'll probably continue to get angry at the injustices that teachers have to endure. But then I'll dance to "I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line and get my mental bearings straight.

By the way, I did grab that calendar out of the dumpster. The pictures will be recycled, new artwork for my office. And as for me, I'll continue to wear Red for Public Ed, and like that red bird in the snow, come out of the abyss and find a new life.

Only this time I'll have dancing shoes on.