Category Archives: Schools

General posts

Loving That Old Feel……

school-K12-DeSoto_landing1school-typical chiaco

The images above show the typical school buildings that I work at most of the time. They usually are more than 70  years old,  90% wood-centric, with hardly any elevators [and three steep levelsof stairs to navigate is the norm.]

True, they don’t have the ultramodern trappings and fittings; those things are mostly hodge-podged in as needed. Sure, there are computer labs and other up-to-date amenities present, but there’s that overriding presence of the thousands of children’s minds that have walked through there.

When I enter an older classroom, I get a feeling for the ornate architectural details, the spaciousness of the closets and “cloakrooms”, and heating systems that could warm the planet. As I finger the well-worn varnished wood, my mind drifts back to when students have clearly defined ideas of what “going to school” was about. It was an opportunity, a privilege, and one can sense the great care that was given to the rooms. Unlike today, too many  students that I work with have little or no regard for their learning surroundings, and take a throwaway attitude.

Architects of old designed these sites as temples to learning, as a school was often the first official structure in a child’s life. Places of worship were the other official buildings, but schools were attended more than churches.

Yes, it’s nostalgia, but also an appreciation for the architectural details, and commitment to making a visual difference in a community’s daily landscape.

Don’t just tear down the old—repurpose them as needed. Monies can be saved in many cases, and the overall structure can be a plus for historic preservation. New doesn’t necessarily mean better…..


Yes, Virginia, There Is………..


That famous line about whether or not there is a Santa Claus is just how I felt when I’ve spent the last few weeks as a guest teacher where there are no:

  • food fights
  • physical fighting in the classroom
  • paper-ball throwing  and/or balling up black sheets just for the heck of it
  • blurting out impulsively
  • being called a profane name
  • cross-talking above the teacher’s voice 95% of the time

Yes, there is now at least ONE school in my bag of gigs where I actually use my “teaching skills”—that is, engaging students in discussions, facilitating independent work, and allowing the class to be proactive, with decent results.

Have I been dreaming?

It seems that this school has always kept a very heavy home/family involvement, and anything negative behavior-wise was just not accepted. With such high expectations in place, the kids know how far they can push the envelope, and it’s rare when one does.

There are those glitches, of course, like any school. But the biggest “problem” I’ve encountered overall is talking above a Level 2—which is a conversational tone. Can you imagine?

So, I’m very grateful to have experienced several weeks of relative educational sanity. It will be a welcome mental respite when I have to go back to the “Real Classrooms” of my city……☺

In Requiem

Closing a school means more than just shutting the doors, and turning off the lights. The resounding vacancy felt is way more than just physical. It’s the slew memories, the triumphs, the challenges, but most of all—it was the people over the decades whose lives were touched by coming through those school portals. Looking at these images, you can still feel the lingering shadows of teachers, students, blackboard chalk, homework, assemblies, and countless connections made that many will carry for a lifetime…..

Photos courtesy of  Bill Healy—WBEZ FM radio in Chicago, Bill Healy is a photographer and producer at WBEZ. Follow him @chicagoan

Hurray For Playtime!

After a decades long absence, most schools in my city are restoring recess—a much-needed break in the school day

school play

It’s been proven that unstructured play aids in strengthening social, and cognitive skills, along with giving kids time OUTSIDE, away from the ongoing screen time of computers and Snartboards. Moreover, physical activity truly helps in the fight against childhood obesity.

Since I’ve come back to work this year, I’ve noticed a slight decrease in that post-lunch crazies that can make afternoons drag like cement blocks. They seem to listen a bit better, and attempt at staying more focused. It remains to be seen how my kids fare this year.

On Today’s Menu

This school year has me scheduled for one site, so I get a chance to be really immersed in the school’s daily life and culture. On of my huge pet peeves is school lunch, and what can be done to make it more nutritious, flavorful. and well–fun.

The fare offered for today was a valiant attempt at expanding the students’ culinary education, but unfortunately it fell flat. My school is in an urban setting, where unfamiliar food, although it might be healthy, gets a rousing thumbs down.

Fish tacos

The above image is a typical dish of fish tacos. But the kids at school did not have a serving that looked straight out of a glossy, foodie magazine. However, because they had no knowledge of  fish that was not fried, or on a white-bread bun, they rejected it.

I questioned several of the primary graders, and most of them told me they didn’t like it because “it looks gross,” among other comments. Overwhelmingly, the fish got dumped in the trash [along with the canned mixed vegetables], and some ate the tortilla only. To top it off, the dessert of applesauce was eaten first, by a 2 to 1 margin, as well as that ever-present chocolate mile.

I see a real disconnect here somewhere………

How to Get Kids to Actually Eat Healthy School Meals

This post reflects an ongoing issue that I care deeply about. Plus, being in the classroom, I see the crisis firsthand daily. Let this piece get you energized about healthy food for our schoolchildren.

How to Get Kids to Actually Eat Healthy School Meals.

They’re Reading What?

   Being in a number of schools, one particular site has stood out as a “Why’d they do that?” when it comes to selecting class reading texts.

   Assigned to an unruly, inattentive 8th grade class, I always look through the available classroom materials to get familiar with what students deal  with daily.  While they were out of the room for an enrichment session, I took a look around.

      Not agreeing with most of basal readers in my district, [I don’t support a “one reader fits all” method], I came across the series used that marking period. To say the least, I was saddened and appalled at the same time. Continue reading