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2001: A Space
by Chris Sura
Sura, upon earning his
Bachelor’s at Western Michigan University worked for Central
Michigan University in Housing before teaching at River Valley
High School. When he moved to Houghton Lake where he currently
teaches, Chris completed his Masters in Education at Central
Michigan University. A member of the Crossroads Writing Project
through Ferris State University, he facilitates a conference on
Professional Writing every summer and does online instruction
through Kirtland Community College. He is married to Heidi, his
wife of twenty years, and has two kids, Christopher and Grace.
Chris writes poetry and fiction and has self published a book of
One of my many joys in teaching is teaching 2001, A Space Odyssey. The kids struggle
with the film because is was made from another time in movie making history, but as a
apart of my Science Fiction and Fantasy class, it serves as a benchmark for most science
fiction films. I share with them how this movie is referenced continuously, copied visually
and challenged continuously by other films.
Being a part of my class, there is the journal writing and the end of the week writing
assignment. I have to say, on average, this assignment gets the most passionate writing. It is
passionate as in how they hate the film, but the fingers do fly and the keyboards click away.
At the beginning of the week, I explain how some movies are made as an allegory
and everything, every scene, musical note and dialogue has significance. Stanley
Kubrik, the producer, screenwriter (along with Arthur C. Clarke, author), and director, choose
everything with precision and purpose. The music has a role, not just background music to
sell a sound track. The long sequences with no dialogue have a purpose as well. They must,
more than any other film they have seen in their lifetime, watch this film intently and
ask, “why did Kubrick show me this image?”
My students get nervous when I say, “no dialogue.” I explain that the opening
sequence is a black screen for an uncomfortable period of time, then it starts with the Dawn
of Man. I tell them they are to answer questions after we watch the first part. And so we
After watching from the opening to where the primitive man-ape throws a bone into
the sky and it turns into a spaceship, I stop the movie and ask them the following questions
for their journal.
"Why did Kubrick show us a black screen with some weird music?"
"What music played when the planets aligned and the ape-man used the bone to hit
the other bones?"
"What is the role of it?" ( I usually than sing/mimic
Dah, dah, da-ah, dada-a-ah..Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom ).
"And why does it go from bone in the sky to spaceship?"
The written answers that are revealed in later discussion are that Kubrick wanted to
show the beginning of the odyssey of man was nothing but darkness; that the music’s role
is to show significant moments in man’s journey; and that the bone to transition scene is
the history of man that we already know from then to the near future.
The next sequence of the movie, still no dialogue, is space travel. A pen floats in
the air, the stewardess on the ship walks with special shoes, and our traveler carefully
reads the instructions for a “zero gravity toilet.” During this sequence of the stellar, ground
breaking film, Kubrick selected ballet music to play. This leads to the next writing prompt:
"What is Kubrick suggesting with segment of the film?" To which, the students write and talk
about the beauty and grace of space travel.
Once upon the moon, we are exposed to the plot and mystery of the movie. I shall
not give too much away, but the writing continues with “Why?” or “What?”
Kubrick show Frank and Dave doing mundane things?"
"What does Kubrick suggest with the
movement and breathing during Frank’s space walk?"
"Now, when in space, why is there no
I also found through random searches on the Internet, a website link that offers
an interpretation of the film (www.kubrick2001.com). The home page says “the space
odyssey explained.” It then offers to explain it in many languages being that this film has
been viewed and studied worldwide. Then it offers you some words from Stanley Kubrick
himself: “You are free to speculate, as you wish, about the philosophical and allegorical
meaning of ‘2001’.” After viewing the film and before showing the video, I
do ask students what they think. Many are confused. Some are intrigued. The online video is helpful
with their questions. It is simple, yet quite good and thought provoking. When the quote
appears, I stress that it is one person’s interpretation and that Kubrick invites everyone to
take what they will from the film.
The movie is broken up into segments with titles and even an intermission, so,
depending on your length of class time per day, you can break it up into a workable week
with journal writing daily. Upon viewing the movie and the short online video analysis of
the movie, one can develop many questions and adapt to one’s own focus or interpretation.
Whether they get it or not, love or hate it, the students talk and question, which
leads to some awesome writing.
they have to write 201 words on 2001 (I am not a fan of required word count,
but with this assignment, it seems fun to use it). They can write whatever they want about
the movie as long as they can back it up. And they write.
I have found that 201 words are way too short for many of them. A portion of the
students write how the film was tedious and boring with incessant breathing, lack of
dialogue and a slow plot. They go into detail about one or many things. I have received
many a response/critique that cannot contain what they feel in as little as 201 words. Some
write about how confusing it was. Some write that it was awesome. They make comparison
to other movies and say how 2001 was like them, and I point out that 2001 came first.
This film and writing still gets reactions after students have moved on to other
classes or even after they have graduated. I have received calls and emails from students
saying “Mr. Sura, you were right.” There are references in other space movies, in cartoons,
other movies and in commercials. The “I’m sorry Dave. I can’t do that” is a line students
repeat to me. I recently received an email from a student who was in an education class and
read an article that referred to 2001.
I tell more recent students that they will see references to or duplications from this
movie and will curse me. One student has promised to punish her own children with the
movie. Yet, I know, they will contact me eventually and some will say, “Get it out of my
head.” And I, knowing that my work is done, will say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that.”
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Accessories, Add-Ons & DIY
Hand is an
educator's resource for using some of the coolest technologies
Learning in Hand is
written by Tony Vincent. Tony taught fifth
grade in Omaha, Nebraska for six years, and three of those years
his students were pioneers in educational handheld computing.
Then, as technology specialist at Willowdale Elementary, Tony
brought the newest technologies into classrooms. Whether it was
digital video, blogs, email, podcasts, or handhelds, Tony helped
Willowdale teachers and students understand the usefulness of
new technologies. Currently, Tony is self-employed as an
education consultant. He conducts workshops, presents at
conferences, and writes books based on his teaching experiences
and passion for new technologies.
Always excited to
share, Tony has documented much of what he knows about handheld
computing and podcasting on his website, learninginhand.com.
There you'll find useful software collections, the best webs
links for handhelds, complete lesson plans, and an informative
Tony is a teacher who
wants to make education effective, relevant, and fun. He knows
handhelds are small computers that can make a big difference in
classrooms! He hopes Learning in Hand inspires and motivates
teachers to use technology that students crave.
One of the sharing sessions at Mobile
Learning Experience 2011 was dedicated to accessories,
add-ons, and do it yourself projects for mobile devices. I took
along many of mine to share.
Order your own iPod Touch Today with the links below:
are six modules designed to test the basic ability of an
individual in terms of Memory & Concentration. Needless to
say this is the most important basic skill for not just to
survive but also to thrive in this competitive environment.
Each of the six modules tests the six variants of Memory &
Concentration in an individual, namely:
of these modules runs at three different levels, from easy to
At each level, the individual's performance is depicted as
A feedback has been built into the software for all these 18
levels depending on the marks one scores during the
Each individual can assess his/her performance any time by
clicking on "history", which gives complete details
of date and time of taking the tests, marks scored each time
and even time taken to do the test. This builds the confidence
level and encourages more participation to eventually
culminate in improvement and enhancement of memory and
Essentially, this software is a SELF AWARENESS tool that
surely motivates the individual to realize one's capability
and seek or be receptive for improvement. Also, if repeatedly
done over a period of time works as Training tool to enhance
software package is specifically designed to help young
children to learn basic skills that will help them in
school. Continued follow-up will give these young
learners success as they mature.
Three versions of the software exist:
Individual Software on either CD or Online, Family
Version Software, and an Institutional Software package.
StarTeaching wholeheartedly supports
and endorses this software. It will make a difference
with your child or student.
HERE to order your own copy today:
For The Things They Don't Teach You In College
by Rozina Jumani
has multiple meanings ranging from the simple ability to read
and write, to interpreting and implementing ideas, knowledge and
skills that a person may have required.
definition of literacy is context specific. The parameters of literacy
may vary from one geographical region to another and from one era to
another. It can be as simple as just recognition of the alphabets, or
signing of one’s own name, or may be broader in order to include the
handling of equipment
definitions of literacy focus on perception and decoding. For example,
Spache (1964: 2) described literacy as “a series of word perceptions
i.e. reading only”. Kaestle (1985: 34), described literacy as “the
ability to decode and comprehend language at a rudimentary level, that
is the ability to look at written words corresponding to ordinary oral
discourse, to say them, and to understand them.”
two definitions emphasize the aspect of skills to read the printed
symbols and to map these symbols into the understanding of oral
is observed that initially, the definition of literacy was confined to
the acquisition of the basic skills of the 3 R’s (reading, writing and
arithmetic). Over a period of time, basic literacy was upgraded to
functional literacy, expanding further into knowing to do things by
using insight. This transformation of literacy is, in fact,
associated with its importance for the society as a whole, and to enable
a person to effectively participate in the life
defining literacy is a very complex notion, it is important to
deliberate upon it since the definition has far-reaching implications.
Some experts have emphasized cognitive processes in describing literacy,
some more generally and others more specifically. For example, Goodman
(1976: 51) suggested that “reading is a psycholinguistic guessing
game”. Venezky (1991:22) states, it is “a cognitive skill.”
Calfee and Nelson-Barber (1991:13) describe it as “the capacity to
employ language as a tool for oral communication.”
definitions are consistent with teaching reading and writing as a
cognitive process that involves the processing of information through
such strategies as activating background knowledge, encouraging readers
to make predictions, or writers to organize their ideas into categories.
below cited definitions from different countries indicate that despite
the broadening of the description of literacy in literature, the working
definition of literacy, as adopted by different countries has remained
fairly simple at the skill level.
to read and write in any language
9th grade pass is considered as literate and
according to this definition illiterates are only 1 % in that
is defined as the one who can read with accuracy at a speed of
approximately 40 words per minute and write or copy at a speed
of 10 words per minute and take dictation at the speed of not
less than 7 words per minute in any language.
person is considered as literate who can recognize alphabets,
read simple words, signs his / her name (eligibility for voting)
able to read and understand a letter, or able to read certain
part of certain magazine or of a certain newspaper.
is defined as the ability to read and write in any language, a
short statement on every day life of 06 years and above persons
definition of literacy consists of three components viz-a viz.
and writing the printed materials without spelling each word.
Writing 80 words in 45 minutes without making too many mistakes.
Reading four digit numbers and write legibly the first ten
to UNRSCO (2002), It is currently estimated that about twenty percent of
world's population aged fifteen and above is illiterate and that about
115.4 million school-age children are not in school.
Be sure to check out our website for the FREE teacher Who-I-Want-To-Be
plan and other great Freebies for new teachers. Simply click the
following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm
Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use
immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our
writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm
/ 21st Century Teaching Corner
Benn earned his Masters of Integration of
Technology from Walden University. Previously, he earned
his B.S. from Western Michigan University and his Elementary
Certification from Northern Michigan University. He is a 21
year teaching veteran of 5th and 6th grade students at Inland
Lakes Middle School in Indian River, MI.
Prior to teaching, Mark spent 11 years as
Department Manager for Sears, Roebuck and Co. dealing with
emerging technologies. He has been married to his wife
Bonnietta for 32 years with one daughter and two sons. In
the summers, Mark works for Mackinac State Historic Parks in the
as a historical interpreter.
How would you like a solution that can save money in a school’s IT department and
help coordinate your staff and students. Check out Google Apps for Education. Now,
I know when you hear Google you think of a search engine or probably G-mail. But
this is a solution that is far bigger than that and best of all, it’s free. Let’s take a look
at what Google Apps for Education is all about.
Click the link below to see a presentation by
Google of 32 ways to use the apps in education:
32 Ways to Use Google Apps in Education
You start by contacting Google to set up a specific domain for your school. Once that
domain is set up you have many choices to make. The best part is that it allows you
to control all the settings. Within the domain you will have available to all the staff
and students Gmail, Google docs, spreadsheets, presentation, and forms. Also, within
the domain are Google sites, calendar, video, and more. They have a training site for
every part of Google Apps for Education. You have control of the security settings for
all the parts.
To learn more about how Google Apps for Education can benefit your school go to:
For training go to http://edutraining.googleapps.com/
and check it out. How does it save you money? It saves on servers, and it frees up your IT staff to work on other
things and let Google handle their part. For a better understanding of this program
check out the presentation below.
Resources for Science Educators
By Helen de la Maza
de la Maza
is a Curriculum and Instruction Consultant in southern
California with almost 15 years experience in the field of
education. She has written curricula and taught science,
environmental science, and environmental education to students
ranging in age from 4 to 85 years!
She believes that learning the process of
scientific thinking can help students think critically and be
careful observers of the natural and human-made world.
Helen earned an MS in Wildlife Science, an MA in
Curriculum and Instruction, California single subject teaching
credentials in Biological Sciences and English, and a multiple
subject credential. When she was in graduate school for her MS,
she realized that "interpreters" were needed to
communicate between the scientific community and lay people.
Much of her work has been focused on doing this through
teaching, training, and writing.
The Internet and World Wide Web provide the opportunity for massive amounts of information
to be distributed to a wide audience. In fact, so much information is available that it is
overwhelming to sort through! As a Science Educator you barely have enough time to plan
your curriculum and assess your students, let alone spend hours surfing the web looking for
great resources. That's where I come in - providing
excellent information, media, and lessons to your students that are already available on the web.
I’ll do the searching for you and highlight every couple weeks some Rad Resources for Science
Educators. Feedback is appreciated! Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This week I present our Easy-to-Use Climate Change Action Projects for K-12 Students:
Facing the Future
Facing the Future has released a comprehensive service-learning resource for climate change.
The Climate Change Action Project Database includes more than 25 ready-to-use action projects
that will prepare students to understand and take action on climate change.
NASA offers the Climate Kids: NASA’s Eyes on the Earth website, targeted at kids in grades
4-6. It offers online interactives, images, video, and content, along with links to websites with
Climate Change Education Program
Will Steger Foundation’s K-12 interdisciplinary climate change education program includes
lesson plans that are experiential in nature, tied to national standards, and available free for
download. The curricula and online adventure learning program is proud to have the support
of the National Education Association with over 3.2 million members. Will Steger Foundation
also provides exciting expedition footage from Will Steger and partner polar expeditions and a
variety of other resources.
K-12 Science Curriculum
Access to the K-12 Integrating Science, Math, and Technology Reference Curriculum is FREE.
Educators or parents may use the copyrighted material in their classroom.
Drinking Water and Groundwater Kids' Stuff
Environmental Protection Agency Data Finder
Data Finder is a single place to find EPA's data sources so people can access and understand
environmental information. All of the data sources are available on the Internet and have been
organized by topics such as air, water, and chemicals.
This site is a joint effort of the NOAA Research and the College of Education at the University
of South Alabama. The goal of the site is to provide middle school science students and teachers
with research and investigation experiences using online resources.
NAAEE Online Higher Education Directory
The online higher education directory is a comprehensive resource to undergraduate and
graduate environmental programs at higher education institutions in North America. The
directory provides details about institutions, programs, departments, and faculty. Updates are
continually being made. The directory will help faculty network with each other, as well as
provide direction to students seeking an institution that matches their interests in environmental
courses and degree plans. The directory also supports NAAEE’s work with the National Council
for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).
Bring MIT to Your Classroom
High school teachers looking to reinforce their curriculum and knowledge base can tap into the
course materials faculty use at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. An online program
called “Highlights for High School” — part of the interdisciplinary OpenCourseWare system
MIT launched several years ago — gives educators and students free Web access to the esteemed
university's introductory courses and related tools, such as Advanced Placement test preparation,
video demonstrations, and lab experiments. High school teachers at any level may use these
resources to supplement their lesson plans, in-class activities, homework assignments, and
Economies in the 1800s
Prior to the advent of government-funded public schools, the primary
mode of education for those of the lower classes was the charity school,
pioneered during the 1800s by Protestant organizations and adapted for
use by the Roman Catholic Church and governmental bodies. Because these
schools operated on very small budgets and attempted to serve as many
needy children as possible, economic factors were prominent in their
The basic program was to develop "grammar" schools. These
taught only grammar and bookkeeping. This program permits people to
start businesses to make money, and gives them the skills to continue
their education inexpensively from books. "Grammar" was the
first third of the then-prevalent system of Classical education.
The ultimate development of the grammar school was by Joseph
Lancaster, who started as an impoverished Quaker in early 19th century
London. Lancaster used slightly more-advanced students to teach
less-advanced students, achieving student-teacher ratios as small as 2,
while educating more than a thousand students per adult. Lancaster
promoted his system in a piece called Improvements in Education that
spread widely throughout the English-speaking world.
Discipline and labor in a Lancaster school were provided by an
economic system. Scrip, a form of money meaningless outside the school,
was created at a fixed exchange rate from a student's tuition. Every job
of the school was bid-for by students in scrip. The highest bid won. The
jobs permitted students to collect scrip from other students for
services rendered. However, any student tutor could auction positions in
his or her classes. Besides tutoring, students could use scrip to buy
food, school supplies, books, and childish luxuries in a school store.
The adult supervisors were paid from the bids on jobs.
With fully-developed internal economies, Lancaster schools provided a
grammar-school education for a cost per student near $40 per year in
1999 U.S. dollars. The students were very clever at reducing their
costs, and once invented, improvements were widely adopted in a school.
For example, Lancaster students, motivated to save scrip, ultimately
rented individual pages of textbooks from the school library, and read
them in groups around music stands to reduce textbook costs. Exchanges
of tutoring, and using receipts from "down tutoring" to pay
for "up tutoring" were commonplace.
Established educational elites found Lancaster schools so threatening
that most English-speaking countries developed mandatory publicly-paid
education explicitly to keep public education in "responsible"
hands. These elites said that Lancaster schools might become dishonest,
provide poor education and were not accountable to established
authorities. Lancaster's supporters responded that any schoolchild could
avoid cheats, given the opportunity, and that the government was not
paying for the educations, and thus deserved no say in their
Lancaster, though motivated by charity, claimed in his pamphlets to
be surprised to find that he lived well on the income of his school,
even while the low costs made it available to the poorest
street-children. Ironically, Lancaster lived on the charity of friends
in his later life.
Novels by Frank Holes, Jr.
The legends of the Michigan Dogman come alive in six haunting
tales by folklore author, Frank Holes, Jr.
Based upon both mythology and alleged real stories of the
beast, this collection is sure to fire the imagination!
Spanning the decades and the geography of the
, Frank weaves:
A mysterious police report of an unsolvable death in
terrifying encounter in the U.P.’s remote
begun as one man’s therapy, becomes a chronicle of sightings
governmental agent investigates the grisly aftermath of Sigma
family meets more than they expected on the trail north
campfire tale of ancient betrayal handed down through the Omeena
to Dogman Country!
Here For The
Tales From Dogman Country Website
of the Dogman Website
of Sigma Website
Nagual: Dawn of the
The Longquist Adventures, written for
elementary students, is excellent for teaching mythology and
classic stories to young children.
We now have special offers on Classroom Sets of our Novel.
Click here for more information:
A CLASS SET
A Place for Teachers New To The Craft
Approach to Classroom Discipline:
LEAST approach to classroom discipline is a simple survival
strategy for the teacher.
It is a response to teachers’ urgent pleas for quick
and easy methods they can use in the face of mounting discipline
Succinctly stated in the words of one teacher, “We must
survive before we can grow.”
It involves the “least” methods that should be
employed to facilitate and maintain classroom control.
LEAST is an acronym for the following activities of the
STUDENT PROGRESS (continued)
When Should You
Track Student Progress?
ALWAYS track students' progress. For one thing, this is an
excellent way to let students know that you're paying attention to
them. For another, tracking progress is the only way you can
determine whether or not a specific disciplinary approach has been
What does “Track
Student Progress” Mean?
progress means seeing how students are behaving in the minutes, hours,
and even days following their involvement in some type of disciplinary
situation. There are four different activities in which the
teacher may engage here: evaluating new behavior of the students
involved (Are they doing what you asked?", following through on
previously outlined consequences (if the students are not doing as you
requested); providing positive reinforcement in a direct (e.g., praising
more constructive behavior) or indirect manner (e.g., giving the student
a chance to lead a discussion); and keeping the "track
How Can You Track Student Progress?
As indicated above, tracking students'
progress may involve the teacher in as many as four different
activities. Let's first review steps 1-3, and then we will
continue on with step 4:
Through on Consequences
Reinforce New Behaviors
- Keeping the Track Record
This is a matter of selecting and/or developing a method of
"tracking" that is adequate for your decision-making
purposes but not so time-consuming that it interferes with normal
To do a good job of tracking you must know something about all your
students. This means you should plan ahead just as you would
plan ahead to teach a lesson. Keep some type of written record
of student behaviors, your responses to these behaviors, and any
pertinent information you have gained by "attending more
fully." A full anecdotal commentary on every student
would be too time-consuming and therefore counterproductive, but the
record does need to be such that you understand what you have
To make entries into the record quickly, have a list of all your
students ready ahead of time -- in a notebook or card file, for
example -- on which you can record events as they happen. A
listing of students by class would be useful. Devise some
coding that would suffice. For example, in the case of Nikki
tripping Sandra, put some coded notes about what happened after both
names and the fact that you decided to "leave things
alone." It will become apparent through your "track
record" whether this behavior is an isolated event or part of a
pattern. You may even find from the record that Sandra is more
the source of the problem than Nikki. The important thing is
that you be able to make your entries quickly and with
Once again, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you
begin tracking the progress of your students:
When you evaluate students' new behavior, try to avoid the
"I'm watching you like a hawk to see if you mess up"
approach. If you get into the habit of observing and listening
to each of your students every day, they won't decide that you care
only about what's happening when there is trouble.
Do not apply consequences unless and until you have to, but then
do it promptly, firmly, and fairly. Your students have to see
that you are consistent, both in following through on consequences
and in rewarding constructive behavior.
Reward students frequently with small amounts of praise or
similar reinforcements. It is a mistake to hold off
while waiting for the "perfect" behavior -- you'll never
get it. Instead, make sure students are aware that you are
pleased every time they function effectively.
The situation involving racial tensions
especially reflects the need for tracking student progress.
Here the effective teacher will exercise Option #1 and leave things
alone, since there is little that can be done on a unilateral basis
to relieve the tension. However, the teacher will also track
the progress of all students to see if any overt signs of this
racial tension are threatening to disrupt the learning process.
Another example: Fred's school has no dress
code, and Fred was one of the few students who tended to take
advantage of this fact. At first his homeroom teacher left
things alone; there were more important problems to deal with.
Finally, however, Fred showed up in class looking like a walking
disaster area and the teacher had to end the action. He did so
by speaking to Fred after class. It was too late for Fred to
change that day, but after responding to Fred's feelings, the
teacher outlined quite clearly the minimal quality of dress and
hygiene he expected from Fred the next day. The directions
were sufficient. Fred "cleaned up his act"
considerably, showing up the next day in fresh clothes and with a
clean face. The teacher noted this and reinforced Fred's new
behavior: "Hey, Fred, now that's what I call sharp!"
No big deal here -- just a simple
follow-up-and-reward procedure. And the teacher will continue
to reward Fred mildly for his positive appearance until this new
behavior has become a confirmed part of Fred's daily life.
Now It’s Your
You've spent some time noting sample
classroom situations in which you might use one or more of the LEAST
options. Now brainstorm some ways in which you would need to
follow through in such situations. What things would you look
and listen for? When would you invoke consequences and
why? And most important, when and how would you reinforce
students' new behaviors? All of these things are critical
parts of the one activity which must accompany a teacher's approach
to discipline: tracking the progress of students.
Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use
immediately in your classroom? Simply click the following link to our
writing page: http://www.starteaching.com/writing.htm
Be sure to check out our website for the FREE teacher Who-I-Want-To- Be
plan and other great Freebies for new teachers. Simply click the
following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm
Be sure to check out our website for more great
information, tips, and techniques for new teachers,
student-teachers, and interns in teacher prep programs. Also be
sure to check out our Who-I-Want-To-Be teacher plan for
preparing yourself to enter the educational profession. Simply
click the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/free.htm
Want to check
out the articles in our Student-Teaching series? Check out our
special Student-Teaching page through the following link: http://www.starteaching.com/studentteachers.htm
Click below to check out the NEW Amazon.com Kindle
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Are There Other Teachers in Your
School or District Who Would Love to Receive Our Newsletter?
Be sure to
pass along our website and newsletter!
"An Analogy for
little inspiration for our work...
If you can see other people, especially the
lawmakers of this country, understanding this
analogy, please share it with them. Be sure
that you give proper credit to the author. We
are merely sharing it with you in the hopes
that you'll find it as meaningful as we did.
By John S. Taylor,
Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster
County School District
The Best Dentist
"Absolutely" the Best Dentist
My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so
I don't forget checkups. He uses the latest
techniques based on research. He never hurts
me, and I've got all my teeth, so when I ran
into him the other day, I was eager to see if
he'd heard about the new state program. I knew
he'd think it was great.
"Did you hear about the new state program
to measure effectiveness of dentists with
their young patients?" I said.
"No," he said. He didn't seem too
thrilled. "How will they do that?"
"It's quite simple," I said.
"They will just count the number of
cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and
18 and average that to determine a dentist's
rating. Dentists will be rated as Excellent,
Good, Average, Below Average, and
Unsatisfactory. That way parents will know
which are the best dentists. It will also
encourage the less effective dentists to get
better, " I said.
"Poor dentists who don't improve could
lose their licenses to practice."
"That's terrible," he said.
"What? That's not a good attitude,"
I said. "Don't you think we should try to
improve children's dental health in this
"Sure I do," he said, "but
that's not a fair way to determine who is
practicing good dentistry."
"Why not?" I said. "It makes
perfect sense to me."
"Well, it's so obvious," he said.
"Don't you see that dentists don't all
work with the same clientele; so much depends
on things we can't control? For example,"
he said, "I work in a rural area with a
high percentage of patients from deprived
homes, while some of my colleagues work in
upper middle class neighborhoods. Many of the
parents I work with don't bring their children
to see me until there is some kind of problem
and I don't get to do much preventive work.
Also," he said, "many of the parents
I serve let their kids eat way too much candy
from an early age, unlike more educated
parents who understand the relationship
between sugar and decay. To top it all
off," he added, "so many of my
clients have well water which is untreated and
has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea
how much difference early use of fluoride can
"It sounds like you're making
excuses," I said. I couldn't believe my
dentist would be so defensive. He does a great
"I am not!" he said. "My best
patients are as good as anyone's, my work is
as good as anyone's, but my average cavity
count is going to be higher than a lot of
other dentists because I chose to work where I
am needed most."
"Don't get touchy," I said.
"Touchy?" he said. His face had
turned red and from the way he was clenching
and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was
going to damage his teeth. "Try furious.
In a system like this, I will end up being
rated average, below average, or worse. My
more educated patients who see these ratings
may believe this so-called rating actually is
a measure of my ability and proficiency as a
dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left
with only the most needy patients. And my
cavity average score will get even worse. On
top of that, how will I attract good dental
hygienists and other excellent dentists to my
practice if it is labeled below average?"
"I think you are overreacting," I
said. " 'Complaining, excuse making and
stonewalling won't improve dental health'...I
am quoting from a leading member of the
DOC," I noted.
"What's the DOC?" he asked.
"It's the Dental Oversight
Committee," I said, "a group made up
of mostly laypersons to make sure dentistry in
this state gets improved."
"Spare me," he said, "I can't
believe this. Reasonable people won't buy
it," he said hopefully.
The program sounded reasonable to me, so I
asked, "How else would you measure good
"Come watch me work," he said.
"Observe my processes."
"That's too complicated and time
consuming," I said. "Cavities are
the bottom line, and you can't argue with the
bottom line. It's an absolute measure."
"That's what I'm afraid my parents and
prospective patients will think. This can't be
happening," he said despairingly.
"Now, now," I said, "don't
despair. The state will help you some."
"How?" he said.
"If you're rated poorly, they'll send a
dentist who is rated excellent to help
straighten you out," I said brightly.
"You mean," he said, "they'll
send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to
show me how to work on severe juvenile dental
problems with which I have probably had much
more experience? Big help."
"There you go again," I said.
"You aren't acting professionally at
"You don't get it," he said.
"Doing this would be like grading schools
and teachers on an average score on a test of
children's progress without regard to
influences outside the school, the home, the
community served and stuff like that. Why
would they do something so unfair to dentists?
No one would ever think of doing that to
I just shook my head sadly, but he had
brightened. "I'm going to write my
representatives and senator," he said.
"I'll use the school analogy-surely they
will see the point."
He walked off with that look of hope mixed
with fear and suppressed anger that I see in
the mirror so often lately.
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