Friday, November 18, 2011

Attitude is like a Virus

Written by Ms. Berman

Attitude is like a virus.  Just as a virus cannot exist without hijacking a host cell and taking over its machinery, attitude cannot exist without entering a person’s mind and becoming a part of his or her thought processes.  Some viruses are innocuous and don’t have a significant impact on our immune system, just as some thoughts have little effect on our way of thinking.  In other cases, the effect can be more unhealthful and destructive. 
All of us hear negative messages spoken on a daily basis.  The decision we have to make is how to respond to such messages.  Useful questions to ask are “What are the odds that there is validity to this information?” and “How does this information benefit me and/or the people I care about?”  It is critical to take the emotion out of the intellectual processing of such situations in order to properly assess the value of the many incoming messages that are flung upon us each day.  We, as humans with the ability to reason, get to choose which statements we are willing to process and integrate as a part of our stream of consciousness (or subconscious mind).  In addition, we choose which messages we will reinforce by either repeating such messages to our peers or ignoring them.   The relatively recent emergence of the internet and smartphones has made it easier for “attitude networking” to occur.  Thus, a simple statement, initially based upon opinion, can quickly start to appear as a fact as it is transmitted through a network of people in a short period of time.  As humans, it is easy to forgo control over our cognitive processing center, and react on an emotional level to such statements as they typically elicit such a response. 
The old clichés “thick-skinned” and “let that roll off your back” are applicable to the concept of attitudinal responses.  Those who tend to be less reactive to the attitude networking that typically occurs in any group environment, will usually end up with fewer negative messages cluttering their brain.  This requires filtering fact from fiction, but enhances autonomy and self-empowerment when it comes to decision-making down the road.  There are enough things in life that are beyond our control.  Attitude, however, is within our control and drives everything that we do in life.  In fact, self-esteem and attitude have been proven to be more essential than raw intelligence when evaluating whether an individual will achieve success, happiness, and contentment in life.  At the very least, if we listen with discretion and take control over what we are willing to internalize, then we can aim to develop more positive thought processes.  Over time, the mind will be freed up of the influx of negative messages, just as the aim for a healthy body is to be virus-free.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Written by Rebecca Chhay
In Theory of Knowledge last year, we took a field trip to see the latest movie about education, Waiting for Superman. In the film, there was an animated clip of a factory that illustrated the track system in education. In the track system, students are sorted off into tracks based on their abilities.
I’ve been in a track system before. I didn’t realize it was called that, but at Roosevelt that was what we had. Two completely different sets of teachers separated the tracks, and it didn’t matter if you were stellar in one subject but you couldn’t deal with another; you were generally put (or later transferred) into the easiest track possible.
We were taught to take pride in our tracks, in the labels the administration stuck on us. In seventh grade, I was part of “Adventure 7”, which sounds nice at first but that effect diminishes after you realize it’s a form of segregation. It didn’t stop there. In our tracks, we had our sub-tracks. For Adventure 7, that meant we GATE students were separated from the seminar students.
Occasionally, when a seminar student was absent, and he or she took a make-up a test in my class, I would hear the inevitable remark about how much “crazier” and remarkably “different” my class was (as I sat next to the empty table in one of my classes, and thus was the recipient of all comments). 
The comments puzzled me for a great deal of time.  I didn't understand as to why there would be such a difference.  We had the same teachers, and the seminar students were just as ethnically diverse, etc. And in fact, I would probably still be puzzled if my 8th grade history teacher didn't insist on switching me to the seminar class even though I didn't have the proper Raven test score for it. The only noticeable difference I could discern after the switch was the fact that these seminar kids knew that the expectation, given their shiny “seminar” label, was that they were going to do all the work and be geniuses. Maybe not everyone in there was a genius, but each student definitely did all the work. 

Is the power of labels really so great?

In high school, we don’t have “Adventure 7”, “GATE”, or “seminar”. Instead, at San Diego High, I am reduced to the label of an “I.S. student”. I don’t deny its accuracy, but I protest at the one-label-fits-over 500 idea.
I have a background, a future, and aspirations. I am so much more than an I.S. student; so much more than a label.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Written by Ms. Berman

I am sitting on the floor of a dirty hallway, alongside my students who are lined up against the walls of the building, engaged in their studies.  I allowed for differentiated learning today, and this group is reviewing while the other half of the class is taking a test.  I notice Z. successfully tutoring her friends and make a mental note to later ask her to become a Science Scholar.  I slide over to another group of students who don’t openly admit that they are lost, but I can tell that they need assistance.  I think about the fact that I am sitting on the floor, which is odd for a woman my age, but if I try to kneel or stand, I will lose this teachable moment.  And I am not willing to do that. 

I reflect upon the events of the previous day.  In preparation for the upcoming Chemistry exam, I had decided to schedule an after school tutorial.  Immediately after school, when only a few students showed up for the study session, I wasn’t sure if it had been worth it.  Thirty minutes into the review, a room filled with students, when N. said, “My brain just got rocked,” I knew that it was.  As educators, we call these “aha” moments.  A switch is flipped, and all of a sudden a concept makes sense.  This is especially pertinent in a Chemistry course in which there is a processing period for most people to fully comprehend the material.  Every time I conduct a successful tutorial, it is a poignant reminder of how important these small group connections are for true teaching to occur. 

After an hour and a half of tutoring, I had to ask the students to leave my classroom so I could rush off to the Board of Education to take care of some HR paperwork.  Upon my leaving the district building, I noticed several news cameras.  “A lot of media at Board of Ed,” I texted Dr. Ankeney.

“Barnett’s budget plan discussed at tonight’s mtg,” he responded. 

Oh, yes, of course.  “Doom and gloom… think I will pass,” I sent back to him as I started my car.  I couldn’t help but think about the contrast between the ominous news being discussed inside the walls of the Board of Education and the positive energy that I had just experienced within the walls of my own classroom. 

So I guess that gives this blog post a theme… walls.  As teachers in today’s society, we have to deal with walls every day.  Breaking down walls in order to reach our students at large while building up walls to shield ourselves from the negative media.  We must work at holding onto the positive energy produced within the walls of our own classroom and, at times, help our students create artificial walls that they can use to protect themselves during turbulent times.  And sometimes we might find ourselves randomly sitting against walls, in an effort to connect with that one student who hasn’t spoken to us all school year.