Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A day of self preservation

A colleague told me that when you get in a struggle at the end of the year, consider self preservation. I did that today, and for better or for worse, the I was better for it.

I've had an issue with certain students that have missed extended days of class this, the second semester of their senior year, and it has not sat well with some involved that I have rather high and demanding standards. Well, in a meeting today, I became very flexible, or I gave in, which ever seems right. Basically, I decided that it was not worth my time and energy to spend hours, on and off campus, dealing with only a few specific situations, when the real important work is done in class. Tomorrow I will be handing out your basic make-up busy work, as per the "flexible deal" that was made in the meeting. If I would have stuck to my standards and demanded accountability, I would have spent the rest of this semester dealing with these issues. Excuse me, but this is not why I signed on to teach. So I gave up this battle so that the common good could benefit. Now my energy won't be about meetings where bargains are struck, it will be to the classroom where learning takes place. Remember, self preservation.

And this is why my day ended up being quite good.

You gotta love it when 7:30 rolls around, and you are in an in-depth discussion about the Heart of Darkness (which an English teacher assigned) and the classic movie Apocalypse Now. I always ask the students how old they are (all seniors, all 17+) and then I explain to them that they have homework over the weekend, watch Apocalypse Now. Of course I warn them; it's horribly dark, it's bizarre, and it will keep you up at night thinking about it, but they are teenagers and that makes them really want to go and see it. At this time, you have the fanboys raving over X-Men 3, and insisting that Apocalypse Now can't touch the mutant mayhem. Kids.

My Intro students are totally into the Labor/Management negotiations, and for this late in the year, that is great news. The students are negotiating a contract for a hotel in Minnesota. The original concept was created by a college professor for his labor relations class. I "borrowed" the idea, sliced down the 20+ contract pages to 6, and had the students read the contract and go at it. The results are profound. After discussing what both sides are looking for, and some of the tactics of negotiating, I'm watching these lower level students tear apart this contract and masterfully try to manipulate the other side. The labor and managers meet separately to discuss the issues, then send 2 negotiators to a meeting to hammer out details. When they report back, they vote "yes" or "no", and then go at another issue. Just listening to some of these students,
"Make sure you add on just enough dental coverage to get them interested, then insisting on keeping Clause 1.6 that makes it so we don't have to guarantee them work hours. We'll keep more part-timers on, save tons on health insurance, and help the bottom line." Fantastic! What is more fantastic is that all the groups in all three Intro level classes have read the contract enough to head off that manipulation. They are totally involved! So involved that they asked if they can have "just one more round of negotiations". Hell, at this point, who am I to say no!

My College Prep classes are still watching small clips of the China Rising series from the Newshour. However today, there was a little bump in the road. Today's episode was about the problem with Intellectual Property Rights , and how China is doing very little to spot the illegal production of counterfeit products. One of the focus products are watches. Another is technology. But the big focus is no Pfizer's "little blue pill", Viagra. Apparently, Viagra counterfeits are a major problem in China and some if it has to do with the Chinese actually thinking they made a natural Viagra-like substance before the chemical version. Zero period watched it, found it very informative and interesting, and wrote their small summary opinions. Fifth period was going to do the same until one of my students walked in with a young, 8th grade girl in tow. It was a "shadow", someone who follows our students to see what the high school was like. DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!!!! The alarms went off in my head. Seniors who have been learning China, economics, patent rights, and politics could handle it. An eighth grade girl going home and telling mom that she learned about Viagra in school, could not. I made an "on the fly" decision and made our marketing notes (starting the 4 P's) a little more in-depth. Tomorrow, we make up the video and no harm done! See? Proof that I am willing to be flexible :)

Want to read an interview that makes you go "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm", then check out Der Spiegel's discussion with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I can't decide if he is crazy-nuts or crazy-stupid. Either way, he is a dangerous man.
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