WHAT WE SEE DEPENDS ON WHAT WE LOOK FOR

On a morning like every other, Jim Baichtal and his geologist buds meet for coffee. On a rock outcropping, natch. They’re on the shore of Tongass National Forest in Alaska, on the hunt for fossilized remnants of prehistoric marine reptiles.

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It’s May, extremely low tide ~ prime conditions for monitoring the area.

A sip of coffee, an offhand remark.  

Hey, Jim, what’s that?  Say, how ‘bout a donut over here?  So, ya’ think it’s anything?

They take a closer look. It isn’t a fishbone or a branch. They give it a kick, it doesn’t move.

It. Is. Indeed. Something.

It’s a complete intact section on an exposed layer of rock in a place where the tide only occasionally leaves it uncovered.

 

The tail of a thalattosaur fossil found near Kake in Southeast Alaska in May 2011 is shown in this publicity photo released to Reuters July 28, 2011. Alaska scientists have discovered the fossil of the thalattosaur, a prehistoric, long-tailed sea creature that went extinct at the end of the Triassic period.

 

Jim and his buddies discover the entombed bones and vertebra of a Thalattosaur, an enigmatic marine reptile that swam in the tropical waters surrounding the supercontinent Pangea about 200 million years ago.

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Jim and his team know there is a very good chance that more of the skeleton is still intact inside the gray calcareous shale near the tail section. They cut the top slab layers above the fossil, removing each section as they work their way down. A slab containing the original discovery is recovered and a second fossil-bearing slab comes free just as the tide comes in.

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What the geologists do next is try to unravel what’s happened ~ to read and interpret the fossil message.

The Thalattosaur fossil?  It’s at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks where the staff will process the slabs with x-rays, hydrofluoric acid, and micro-sandblasters.  It’s too much of a treasure to lose, says Baichtal.

Speaking of treasure….

 

In the next decade, half of America’s teachers will retire. What we do to recruit, train, and retain our new teachers will shape public education in this country for a generation. All of us are where we are today because we had great teachers in our lives.

We can make our schools better. And we can learn how from geologists. They go to a place that has a history of fossil finds. They know what to look for, observe with intent, talk, talk, dig deeper, then read and interpret the message.

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Teachers need time to collaborate and sit in the corners of each other’s classrooms.  In a teacher-as-stranger role. They can target strategies that work, and then talk about how and why they do. Teacher-as-geologist.

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We need to take a cue from those geologists.  Give teachers time (not guns) to observe, reflect, and interpret The Message.  So, Betsy*, listen up. The Message is about the future of our kids.  It’s too much of a treasure to lose.

Toni 3/6/18

 

*Betsy DeVos, US Secretary of Education, does not hold any degree in Education or ever worked in schools (either as a teacher or administrator), never attended a public school or sent any of her children to one.

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Arne Duncan, I’ve Got Some Stories for You, Stories About a School That Works. You Need an Antidote for Atlanta.

Today I raced from the garden to the house to get to the telephone, and SWOOP the throw rug we have just inside the door went out from under me. I caught myself before my massive bulk hit the floor, but I jolted all my connecting parts.

And Arne Duncan came to mind.

Here’s the train of thought: Arne is U.S. Secretary of Education and he wants to make our schools great. He’s on the hunt for schools that work. Atlanta was one of those systems that people were nudging him to study, award, grant Race to the Top money to, etc.

And then–here’s where the slip and jolt thing comes in–we discover that Atlanta has cheated on its testing. Big Time. The let’s-study-this-district-and-find-out-what-they-do rug has been pulled out from under Secretary Duncan and the rest of us. Yet again.

Caveat: I choose not to join the band wagon of protesters who say it’s the pressure of the test. My goodness, my brain surgeon has pressure too. I hope! My perspective on this and any other how-to-fix-our-schools  furor is this: Hunt for and broadcast what it looks like in successful, high-poverty classrooms. And be specific. The devil is in the details. Tell the stories that show the way it works.

So, I’ve got one. I’ve got a school to be specific about, and I’m going to write about it. My credentials: I’ve taught for 40 years, the last batch of which was at this elementary school and at a teacher-prep college. Yes, I’ve got skin in the game as they say, but, pay attention here: my school has the results. Lots of them. (And, along the way it’s inspired a whole generation of new teachers with its powerful, observable narrative.)

I’m going to visit this school, since I have all this delicious post-retirement time. Partly I’ll sit in a corner of the classrooms in my teacher as stranger mode. What would this classroom seem like to a stranger I’ll ask myself? What might a stranger notice that I’m overlooking? But, like an archeologist who digs in a certain place because he knows that here is where he’ll find the missing knuckle that makes it all clear, I know the practices that make this school one of the ten top performing high poverty schools in the state, a school whose efforts culminate in a fifth grade where 90% of the students are at goal. And I’ll watch for the telling detail, the riveting story that makes this practice or that protocol clear and–well, here’s hoping, Arne?–replicable.

I’m going to make that fancy rug that fools the public with its pretty face, fools the public right up until it slips away and reveals the district’s feet of clay–I’m mixing metaphors here and laughing about it–I’m going to make it into a magic carpet that carries us to a place where we can take a good look at these classrooms that really work. I’ll tell their stories; it will seem like magic.

But it’s not.

Patty

8/9/11

PS I’ll use this blog as a writing workbench, similarly to how I use my notebook. I’ll have drafts of the stories, my notes and lists of what I’m hunting for, questions for revisions. I’ll use the blog to whittle the idea and see what emerges.

Arne Duncan, I’ve Got Some Stories for You, Stories About a School That Works. You Need an Antidote for Atlanta.

Today I raced from the garden to the house to get to the telephone, and SWOOP the throw rug we have just inside the door went out from under me. I caught myself before my massive bulk hit the floor, but I jolted all my connecting parts.

And Arne Duncan came to mind.

Here’s the train of thought: Arne is U.S. Secretary of Education and he wants to make our schools great. He’s on the hunt for schools that work. Atlanta was one of those systems that people were nudging him to study, award, grant Race to the Top money to, etc.

And then–here’s where the slip and jolt thing comes in–we discover that Atlanta has cheated on its testing. Big Time. The let’s-study-this-district-and-find-out-what-they-do rug has been pulled out from under Secretary Duncan and the rest of us. Yet again.

Caveat: I choose not to join the band wagon of protesters who say it’s the pressure of the test. My goodness, my brain surgeon has pressure too. I hope! My perspective on this and any other how-to-fix-our-schools  furor is this: Hunt for and broadcast what it looks like in successful, high-poverty classrooms. And be specific. The devil is in the details. Tell the stories that show the way it works.

So, I’ve got one. I’ve got a school to be specific about, and I’m going to write about it. My credentials: I’ve taught for 40 years, the last batch of which was at this elementary school and at a teacher-prep college. Yes, I’ve got skin in the game as they say, but, pay attention here: my school has the results. Lots of them. (And, along the way it’s inspired a whole generation of new teachers with its powerful, observable narrative.)

I’m going to visit this school, since I have all this delicious post-retirement time. Partly I’ll sit in a corner of the classrooms in my teacher as stranger mode. What would this classroom seem like to a stranger I’ll ask myself? What might a stranger notice that I’m overlooking? But, like an archeologist who digs in a certain place because he knows that here is where he’ll find the missing knuckle that makes it all clear, I know the practices that make this school one of the ten top performing high poverty schools in the state, a school whose efforts culminate in a fifth grade where 90% of the students are at goal. And I’ll watch for the telling detail, the riveting story that makes this practice or that protocol clear and–well, here’s hoping, Arne?–replicable.

I’m going to make that fancy rug that fools the public with its pretty face, fools the public right up until it slips away and reveals the district’s feet of clay–I’m mixing metaphors here and laughing about it–I’m going to make it into a magic carpet that carries us to a place where we can take a good look at these classrooms that really work. I’ll tell their stories; it will seem like magic.

But it’s not.

Patty

8/9/11

PS I’ll use this blog as a writing workbench, similarly to how I use my notebook. I’ll have drafts of the stories, my notes and lists of what I’m hunting for, questions for revisions. I’ll use the blog to whittle the idea and see what emerges.