We had our district-wide kick-off assembly this morning. Snacks were a little skimpy: muffin in a cup, fruit in a cup, juice, coffee. Bacon or other pork product was nowhere in sight. It was supposed to last us from 8 until noon. It didn’t, I can tell you what. I was seriously dopey (oxymoron?) by 10:30 and change. I was drifting hard through some of the evaluation system training videos. (More on that in another post.) I need my morning protein. Or at least some good doughnuts.

One of the speakers at the big morning assembly with everybody in the district there–even 5/7 school board members–was a recently retired 40 year veteran teacher in our district. He taught AP History and coached cross country (boys’ and girls’) and girls’ basketball. His teams won countless league titles and even a state title or two or three. He said the supe told him to talk about what it takes to make a great team. His best line was something along the lines of this:

“When the superintendent called me and asked me to do this, I asked what he wanted me to do. He said, ‘Well, you know how these things go.’ I told him I hadn’t been to one in 20 years.”

Everybody laughed. And then went, “D’oh! What am I doing here again?!”

He was funny and insightful for awhile, and I will probably retell his surfing story here one of these days, but when he got to the part about what makes a good team, his footing was less sure. In fact our supe delicately distanced himself from at least one of the comments.

His point was that there were three things that made a team great.

Number one was buy-in from everyone. Ok, I’ll buy that. haha. Get it?

Number two was leadership. “That comes from the top down.” Ummm… duh.  But ok.

Number three was talent. This is where he said, “You can’t take a donkey to the Kentucky Derby and expect it to win, even if you have all buy-in and leadership in the world.” This is the one the superintendent later seemed to back away from.

“We try to find the talent in everyone,” I think is what he said. It was hard to discern if the message was about teams of teachers or teams in a classroom with students. But that last one still doesn’t help us a lot.

Sports teams are full of kids who have already self-selected (most of the time) to be there. Kids that like and understand what they’ve signed up for. Voluntarily. Sports teams get to cut kids. I could go on for days.

Here’s an example. I meant to post this at the end of last school year, to illustrate again how much of a waste of time the traditional research paper is for many of my students, but well, you know how I am… This is one donkey that ain’t never going to the Kentucky Derby, no matter how much buy-in and leadership I got.

These are excerpts from a research paper entitled “Steroids.” Remember, this is in May. After almost nine months of instruction. They had 4 1/2 weeks to write the whole paper, which was supposed to be at least 5 pages (about 2000-2500 words). I am quoting about 1/3 of the paper below. I am feeling more and more like I am in a Sister Mary Elephant bit. You know, “Sister Rosetta Stone has informed me that your assignment for the last two months has been…”

From the “How Steroids are Used” section:
“People with arthritis, because they crack their nacles (sic) too much.”
“It can help people with cancer. Cancer is the most common disease people get sick. Those prevent you natural steroids to reproduce..”
“You can get pills and just swallow them instead of all the other dumb and crazy things. People use them to open up their air holes. Enlarger of your organism witch can be mad sometimes but not all the time.”
Then I get a diagram of the bladder, urethra, and prostate gland. Really.

This is the entire “What Are the Benefits of Steroids?” section:
“There are only a few or more benefits of taking steroids. It can make you get bigger and stronger. It makes you want to train harder and be a better person at things. It can help you be more competitive and more aggressive that is good because when you get in a fight you wont  loose.”

From the part of the conclusion where I ask them to talk about any problems they had with the process and any other questions that might have arisen along the way:
“I think I had a few problems trying to look up things. I had a problem looking up information about my question. Sometimes I got frustrated with looking things up because they would sometimes say the same thing. I have no questions.”

So all your sources kept saying that steroids are used to open up your air holes? That was your only problem?