Civic Apathy

Civic Apathy

This past Homecoming Day at my school, I set up a table like I had the previous year trying to get the upcoming high school graduates registered to vote. Whether their political views agree with mine or not, I feel strongly that everyone should have the ability to vote in elections if they so choose. The right to vote is so incredibly powerful that subgroups of American society fought for decades for that right to be extended to them.

The outcome of my voter registration drive was stunning. Only fourteen students registered that day, compared to almost three times that number last year. When I asked students why they didn’t want to register to vote, their answers were always the same--either, “I don’t care about politics,” or “What’s the point? One vote won’t make a difference, anyway.” Perhaps they need to go back and study the 2000 presidential election--the year after which many of these students were born. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing--especially from female students. I reminded them about the 19th Amendment, and that women had fought for decades to earn that right, but my plea fell on deaf ears. They simply didn’t care enough about their own futures to spend five minutes completing a voter registration card. In their own words, “Whatever happens, will happen.”

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Experiential Learning in Costa Rica

Experiential Learning in Costa Rica

I’m excited to announce that I am planning another EF Tours trip, from June 19th through June 25th of 2018, to a much less depressing location--Costa Rica! Any high school students and their adult family members are welcome to attend. On this action-filled trip, we will participate in an ecological workshop, go zip lining over and through the tropical rainforest, experience a thermal springs, enjoy a snorkeling activity, participate in a local exchange, visit Rincon de la Vieja National Park, enjoy a boat tour of Caño Negro Wildlife Refuge, visit La Fortuna Waterfall, and take a tour of a coffee plantation. As awesome as all of this sounds, the best part is that students who attend this trip will have the opportunity to experience being immersed in another culture. No amount of learning from within the boundaries of the United States can replace personally interacting with people in their homeland. There is a limited amount of space available on this trip. Anyone who is interested in going with me to Costa Rica should e-mail me at SteinEFTours@gmail.com before all of the slots are gone, and I will get you more information!

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5 Ways To Find The Balance In Your Life

5 Ways To Find The Balance In Your Life

Teachers inevitably face certain challenges throughout each school year.  Every educator is unique, so what plagues one teacher in August may not affect another until the following April.  Sure enough, though, like Freddy Kreuger stalking you in your dreams, it is inescapable.  I'm talking about burnout, lack of sleep, and the demands of being a full-time everything.  

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Celebrating Our Hard Work

Celebrating Our Hard Work

Despite the fact that Tennessee teachers can’t unionize, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has spent the past 151 years staunchly fighting for better working conditions. They have consistently stood up to school boards and school districts when policies are passed that hurt teachers.

One such example of this came a little over a month ago when TEA stood up to the State Board of Education when they attempted to enact a measure that would allow them easier access to punish teachers and revoke their teaching licenses. By law, the retention and dismissal of teachers is a decision made by the local school board and director of schools. The State Board of Education wants to substantially muddy the waters by putting that power into their hands as well. Steve McCloud, TEA assistant executive director for legal services recently said, “A teacher’s license is their most valuable possession, allowing them a livelihood doing what they love to do. Having ambiguous, confusing, and contradictory rules on how a license can be suspended or revoked would be unacceptable for any profession. We certainly won’t allow it for the teaching profession.”

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The GOP's Misguided Approach to Sex

The GOP's Misguided Approach to Sex

As a father of two young girls, this issue is important to me. I will exercise my right to teach them about various forms of birth control, which will include, but not be limited to, abstinence. Not all children are so lucky to have adults in the house to properly advise them, and it is imperative that Tennessee lead the way of conservative states who are willing to take a realistic approach to this issue. Teaching children various ways to prevent pregnancy doesn’t encourage them to have sex; it simply increases their toolbox and the likelihood that they can prevent pregnancy until they’re actually ready.

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Tennessee, You're the Best "D" I See

Tennessee, You're the Best "D" I See

U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, recently spoke at ALEC’s 44th annual meeting. In case you’re wondering who ALEC is, their website states that they are “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” Coincidentally, the tenets of limited government, free markets, and federalism align perfectly with the Republican Party, which makes it baffling how ALEC successfully advertises itself as a nonpartisan organization.

In any case, DeVos made several superficially common-sense statements during her seventeen minute speech that were unfortunately interwoven with gross inaccuracies.

At the beginning of her speech, she made the inarguable point that there needs to be more local control of public education. “Leaders in each state are better able to understand their own circumstances. They are more able to devise solutions than someone perched in Washington, D.C.” The reason why this point is inarguable is because it is not open for debate. Secretary DeVos apparently fails to understand the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed last year so that states could have more autonomy over their own education systems.

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The past is never dead. It's not even past.

The past is never dead. It's not even past.

“We must teach our students that the ‘history’ of these events is far from ‘past’ and ‘passed.’ The history our students face now is a very living thing that we must learn about in order to affect change for our future. The longer we live with the myth of racism or its tendrils as bygone ideas, the more we provide the tinder of complacency that allows fires of hatred to fly through our streets.

As many of us prepare to return to our classrooms, we don't just need to buy flowers and make bulletin boards. We need to prepare and read resources (like #CharlottesvilleCurriculum from Melinda Anderson) that help us make space in our classrooms to discuss these events. We need to ensure that we treat our students' stories and the stories happening right now as a very real, living thing that our kids have the ability to change. They deserve that knowledge. They deserve that power.” I couldn’t agree more.

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Becoming an Innovative Heretic

Becoming an Innovative Heretic

    Ok, so I’m going to be completely honest, here. When I decided in the 7th grade to become a teacher when I grew up, I always had it in the forefront of my mind that I wanted to do things differently. In fact, my frustration with my worksheet-driven, unpersonable 7th grade math teacher cemented the idea that I was going to teach--and do it much better than her.
    I’ve noticed at the beginning of the school year these past couple of years that an increasing number of students tell me that they’re glad they have me as their English teacher. They’ve heard from their siblings and friends that I’m a good teacher, and I’m genuinely humbled when they tell me that they’re looking forward to my class. I just do what I feel good teachers should do, and let the chips fall where they may. Without question, I would assert that I’m not the best teacher in my department, much less the school building. But I try. Every day. Every class period.

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Believe There's Good; Be the Good

Believe There's Good; Be the Good

Despite all of the craziness going on in the world today, I maintain that a large majority of people are good people. Occasionally, I will see a good news story posted on Facebook captioned with someone saying “This restores my faith in humanity!” The truth is that good news stories happen every single day, only they largely go unnoticed by the general public. Let’s be honest here: Fear sells infinitely better than faith and, as a result, most of the news that we consume is negative in nature. That doesn’t mean that most of the people are bad--they’re just the ones getting most of the exposure...

As important as it is for teachers to believe that there’s good in the world, we must also be the good. One of the things that I love about being a teacher is that this comes naturally to us. Teachers thrive on being role models for the younger generations, but with that also comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. In addition to learning about our content, and learning about our students, we reinforce the notions of doing the right thing, of treating others as you want to be treated, and always putting forth your best effort.

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