Tag Archives: teaching

Teachers, Teachers, Teachers – Wherefore Art Thou, Teachers?

Great article, 5 minutes to read, longer if you watch the video embedded.

I taught for six wonderful years (well, 5 were wonderful), before my stroke and a bit afterward.

I feel horrible about where it all is now.  Testing is not everything…someone important needs to hear and acknowledge that and then fix it.

http://www.upworthy.com/teachers-are-doing-one-of-societys-most-valuable-jobs-but-we-sure-dont-treat-them-that-way?c=reccon3

Namaste,

Scott

An Obituary

I saw this in a movie once, “Serendipity”, with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (one of my favorite movies).  The idea is to write your own obituary, to find out what you have done and what you would want remembered about you.

____________________________

Eulogy

By Scott L Vannatter

6/10/2013

It is with considerable sadness as well as profound joy that I can relate to you the eulogy of Scott L Vannatter.  He would have wanted this to all be said and for you to be the ones to read it.

Scott is survived by many in his family, two, especially, his son and his daughter, his two proudest moments in life:  the births of each of them.  While he did divorce their mother, they did raise them with a lot of care and hard work.  Both children always had parents.

Scott was a mix of feelings and achievements.  He managed to work over 20 jobs in his life.  The two that were of the longest span and reach were his work as a computer assistant (operator, programmer, and administrator) and a teacher of special needs children.

Scott’s road to teaching was long and fraught with perils.  He wanted to teach as young as his seventh grade, but he allowed life and things to get in the way.  After his second divorce, he had a deep insight; quit his current job, and moving in with his parents, started back to school for teaching.

This was an important step for Scott.  He was, finally, living a dream.  He proved part of this when, through several years of online classes as well as teaching through part of that time, Scott was awarded his certification in teaching, nearly 60 hours of coursework with a 4.0 and a 100% total in all classes.  He did his student teaching under a master teacher at the Pendleton School System and began working at the New Castle Alternative School teaching grades 6-12 special needs students.

It was here that he really began to shine.  Under good supervision and taking the “slings and arrows” of the classroom, Scott taught respect to his students, mostly, by example.  He loved them all and showed them that they were important, were listened to, and could be respected.

On May 7, 2010, Scott suffered a major hemorrhagic stroke, which, by his accounts, led him to that bright room with the hallway of lights.  It was here he decided to stay around and live.  That he has done.

With all his filters wiped clean, Scott began to rebuild himself, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  He learned to trust God in so many ways and in such a strong manner that he laid his life in the hands of God many times over the next few years.

The stroke was as much a blessing as a curse.  Not being able to work, memory slightly scattered, attention difficult, walking near impossible, Scott fought long and hard each and every day to regain those parts of life he desperately needed in order to continue.  During that period, he also learned how to continue and how precious life was.

By summer of 2013, Scott was walking without a cane, running a daily blog, reading over 40 other blogs, many articles, and consuming himself in a lot of intellectual work.  Finally, having the full opportunity to write, Scott amazed himself by selling 8 stories (1 was charity and 2 were without pay) online and was printed in 2 anthologies, on the Kindle, 1 online magazine, and scheduled for 5 other places by summer’s end.  To say that he was happy would be an understatement.  However, writing was not his life.

Scott’s life was lived fully in his mind.  His imagination was where he had grown up and learned and thrived.  The stroke took some of that ability from him.  He had great difficulty “daydreaming”, something he was very fond of doing.  He could imagine entire universes in his mind, filling them with unearthly, yet emotional, creatures, but he had great difficulty putting himself into those situations.  This saddened him.

He also went through times of being lonely and down; however, he knew life was good and that God was with him, so he never stayed in those times very long.  His motto summed up his life and living:

-All things work out in the end; if it hasn’t worked out, it isn’t the end-

Know that Scott loved life and all of you; he would want you to live, at all costs – live.

Namaste,

Scott L Vannatter

Ramblings of a Person Stuck at Home

And what happened then?

I live by myself, mostly, by choice.  I know I talk all the time about the weird things that happen on dating sites and how women seem to be “after the bad boys”, so I am glad not to play that part; however, while being true, it doesn’t explain it all.

We live in a fairly cruel society.  This isn’t a piece on the paparazzi or rumors particularly.  It’s an article about me, how I feel, and how society has influenced the ways I choose to be.

I spend a lot of mornings now, since my stroke and loss of my teaching job, browsing the net for news items.  News has never been something I have enjoyed until recently.  Now, I check email, check my blog, then when I am bringing up my Xfinity  email, I am presented with a few articles and incentives to read them.  Those lead to others and, often, it is several hours before I look up and realize the day is half-gone and I have been perusing the net for news.

I have many times also simply done a “Google” on a word or phrase and bounced around from there.  I can go from reading about bagels to which government agency may be influencing my television preferences by winter.  It is not without a pattern; however, that pattern changes almost daily.

All of the previous info was to bring you to an understanding of what I read today and its influence.  I began with a few cute short articles, saw one on governmental security, and headed into seniors buying cars and how we change oil too often.

Then, I started reading the meatier articles.  I read Edward Snowden and the NSA:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/06/09/edward_snowden_why_did_the_nsa_whistleblower_have_access_to_prism_and_other.html

While this didn’t particularly surprise me, I was surprised that they could even know this well enough to write the article.  We either have a very smart government who only lets us know what they want us to pick on or … well…you get the idea.

From that, I saw an article on Fibromyalgia:

http://envita.com/lyme-disease/finally-one-link-established-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs-lupus-fibromyalgia-autoimmune-disease-chronic-lyme-disease.php

I watched this because one of my close relatives suffers from this syndrome and I wanted to understand it better, especially since I have chronic pain now, too.

I watched the video, and then chose another when that one was done:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yfu7SDCrLrg&feature=player_embedded#t=1s  (language!)

This woman was angry at the medical field (especially) for not understanding her fibromyalgia and the intensity of the pain and what it could do.  She was very angry that she was treated often with indifference or even ignored at times.  At least, you KNEW, she was ANGRY!

After that, I studied an article about a new book on desire:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2013/06/elizabeth_angel_s_unmastered_memoir_of_female_desire_reviewed.html

And then, I read about Kate Winslet and the fathers of her three children:

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/roiphe/2013/06/kate_winslet_has_three_kids_with_three_fathers_why_do_we_care.html

Finally, that led me back to an article about a high school running coach who was let go because he touched a student inappropriately:

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/06/coaches_who_abuse_when_my_high_school_coach_molested_my_teammate_it_violated.html

The article was well done and from a young woman, I believe, in her late 20s who was on that team and was still feeling a bit responsible that the coach didn’t serve time, or, at least, was still a coach somewhere.

This is where I stopped.  Having taught middle school special needs for almost 5 years before my stroke and going back almost for 1 year afterwards, school things interest me.  This one hit home for a variety of reasons, one of those being fear.  Yeah, fear.  Any male teacher in today’s school that is not, at least, a little afraid of his female students, I think, is off a bit, if not his students, then their parents.  We are a “fire-happy” education system today and that should worry a lot of us.  I have read so much about the problems of engaging students, widening your coverage of testable materials, and all that other study stuff that, often, it seems to me we aren’t told much about the problems of being in a classroom of 12-16 year olds.

I am not trying to take away from the young lady in the last article I mentioned.  There are, I am sure, a lot of teachers and coaches who do things horribly wrong to the students entrusted by parents into their care.  It’s very hard to blame the school (though they do) when a background check may show nothing about how that person was treated as a child or how they have treated their own children.  It is difficult to believe some of it because it seems so widespread a problem.  However, it also seems a problem because the nature of the beast is that many teachers are with students of the opposite sex who are just beginning to get into sexuality.

One of the scariest things I ever read was not a horror story (I like those).  No, it was a part of a book on special needs children and they were talking about just children.  I don’t remember the name of the book, but the idea was that most children in the 11-15 age groups (close to that) have very active imaginations and CANNOT distinguish between reality and their own imagination decisions many times.

Does that not scare you?  Doesn’t the idea that a child could have an idea about you that has no validity in reality, but that they have imagined it and so TRULY BELIEVE it to be so, scare you?  I always treated my students with respect.  I always believed them until there was sufficient reason to disbelieve them.  I was also a good judge of the truth.  But, if a student truly believes some story they have imagined, how am I supposed to judge that?  If they believe, they will tell it as the truth and it should sound like the truth.  Oh, I know that there have been times when it was so ridiculous because of what I knew happened that I could tell, but still…

This is what held my attention today.  This is what I decided to allow myself to dwell upon so that I could pass it on to you.  I fully found myself believing this young lady who said her teammate had been touched by her coach.  Now, the tape recording would have been (and was) a big factor in that belief, but the truth is most school administrations are scared enough of being closed down or, at least, sued that they have elected to, often, overreact to students’ accusations of molestation.  This is an opinion, I know.  And, it may have little real-life bearing.  However, it is a thought.  It is and should be something that is, at least, taken into consideration when a person’s career and often life (as defined by years in jail) is hanging in the balance.

Yeah, I know, just an older guy who used to teach and is now at home with time to think on these things.  I understand how you might just drop this whole idea and shake your head going, “Scott, you have lost it, Buddy.”  Maybe, but it is a pressure that teachers (all, but mostly male) have to live with.  It’s something not covered in pay nor in retirement benefits.

I had you do a poll at the very beginning of this article.  Now, that you have read it, has it influenced the way you voted?  Why or why not?

To those of you who worry, but are not part of the problem, I commend you for teaching under pressure.  For those of you who are a part, I hope Karma exists…

Namaste,

Scott

Education?

I am no longer, officially, in the education system.  I do not get up in front of a class and talk to students and try to help them improve themselves.  Here is a student who had something to say and decided to say it.

Student Speaks Up!

You know one of the big differences between high school students and adults?  Adults usually know when to keep quiet.  We don’t stand up and speak our minds if it means being impolite.  Society has taught that to us.  Does that make us always right?

No.

Through the course of history, it has not, normally, been the quiet, polite, soft-spoken people who made the differences in our lives.  It was the Martin Luther King Jrs, and the John F Kennedys, and the Pattons who have gone to bat for the rest of us and marked out a line that leads to a better place for all of us to be.

I am so tired of hearing the word “standardization” used in education.  Is it important to have a set of standards to teach to?

Yes.

Does that mean we need to teach every student the same way and have them pass the exact same test and do things the exact same way for them to learn.

OMG, NO!

This country’s educational system is on its way down.  You mark my words.  If we, as the citizens of a nation, do not take it upon ourselves to speak loudly and with great intent to the “experts” who are saying that teaching so that students can pass a set of tests that “prove” they are learning is the way to go, it will be the way to be gone.

I was in a classroom full of students who were “failures” by the standards of our educational system.  These kids had great difficulty taking tests; they couldn’t pace themselves to do their homework; they acted up in class.  In short, they fell short of what the educational system stated they needed to know and do to succeed.

The worst part is that, most of the educational system, had already given up on them.  “Babysitters” was what many (not all) thought our job was to be.  Do you know what I found?  I found that when a teacher honestly took a decent period of time with each student and let them know that:

1)  I know it’s hard for you

2)  I care a lot about you

3)  You can succeed

4)  You are special

When I did that, I got results.  Did I have problems?  Yep,  Did I have days and weeks when I wanted to scream? Give that an amen.  But, I also had times when a student would push through and succeed in something.  I had kids who could smile because they did something good.

I had one student who worked for me.  He did well enough that, by the standards I set for students, he received an A+ in that class.  He thanked me after report cards came out.  Why?  Because he had never received an A+ before.  I told him he didn’t need to thank me, he earned it.  He left my class and went back to regular school the next semester and I never heard from him again.  He went on.  He didn’t come back.

I “trusted” my students to behave and I trusted them with things that a lot of other teachers said, “You are setting yourself up for bad news.”  You know what?  So many more times than not, they lived up to my expectations and succeeded.  They made me proud.  Not all, not every time, but it was certainly worth the time and effort to do it.

What was the best was that I dealt with each student as an individual.  I didn’t do the cookie-cutter thing.  That just didn’t work.  I believe I made a difference (I know I did) in a lot of those students’ lives.

We are failing right now.  I am not going to blame the government, the school system, or the teachers.  I am simply going to state that we are failing right now.  That means that someone, anyone, us needs to begin setting a change in order.  We need to succeed for them to succeed.

There is no one simple thing that will “fix it all”.  We have to learn to work together and to give a Damn about it.  Okay, I am swearing; I am done.

Note:  I said, I was done, but then I read Bert’s post on this same subject and saw this video.  Please visit Bert and watch this very important 20 min TED  Talk.

TED Talk on Education – Very Important!!! 20 min

Namaste,

Scott

What’s in a Word?

I have blogged before about being on a couple of dating sites.  The rough times are, usually, signing up because you have to fill out a ton of questions so they can “find a fit match” for you.  I don’t care much for their tactics.  Most of the sites don’t do much to use your info to match you up.  For instance, I put I would like someone within 50 miles of home, so why does it match me with Illinois or Michigan people?  The fact is that, in my opinion, these sites just want to be able to give you hundreds (or more) people to choose from, whether they meet your qualifications or not.

I trust it more when I set up the search and do it myself.  However, as I said, you pretty well have to do some of this work so that, when you do send a message or a “wink” or whatever, the other person can call up your profile and see who’s asking about them.

Promises made online are, sometimes, “iffy”.

Well, today, I was looking at a “match” and this particular site shows a comparison between about 20 questions you have answered as has the match.  One of the questions caught my attention more now than when I answered it.  The question was:

Do you keep your word?

Always           Mostly              Not at all

Very Important         Somewhat Important             Not Important

That may not be it exactly, but the idea is there.  The question seems simple, but the ramifications are very interesting.  For instance, to be really honest, several years ago, before teaching, I would have answered “Mostly” and “Very Important” as I almost always kept my word and it was very important to me.  What I see now is that “very important” doesn’t go well with “mostly”.  So, it’s not important all the time, just most of the time if I keep my word?  Or, is it very important that I keep my word most of the time?

When I filled it out this time, I stated that I keep my word “Always” and it is “Very Important”.  I know I have forgotten a time or two to do something.  That is my stroke.  I do forget every once in awhile.  However, my efforts are to always keep my word and it is extremely important to me that people know that.  Things have changed for me.  Since my stroke, I no longer try to mostly keep my word or, even better, “technically” keep my word.  Have you ever seen that one?  That’s when you word things in such a way that you can “almost break” your word, but “technically” you didn’t.

For instance, if you will “try” very hard to do something and then you don’t, you can say, “I tried” and not be breaking your word.  The problem is that people usually figure that out eventually and quit listening to you.  I had that happen when my children were very little.  They asked me something and I said, “Maybe.”  My son began crying.  I stopped and asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Maybe means No.”  I looked at him and began thinking back.  He was right.  Most of the time (perhaps, all) when I said “maybe” I didn’t want to argue or fight and that put them off.  I stopped and thought, then said to them both, “Tell you what.  From now on, when I tell you ‘maybe’ I will tell you what will make it happen and what will make it not happen.  Then you will know.”  They were happy and I learned a great lesson:  Keep your word.

When I started teaching school, I would make specific promises to my students.  Then, I taught them that I would honor “the letter of the law” in my words.  Most of the time, I would do that to teach them to say what they mean and to mean what they say.

For example, I had a student ask me if she could write a problem on the board.  If I couldn’t solve it, could she not do her homework that day?  I said, yes, on one condition: that then if I could give her a simple task to do and she failed it, she would do double.  She agreed and began writing a long, detailed problem on the board.  The students watched me as I didn’t even look at the problem.  Finally, she finished.  I turned, looked at the problem, and said, “No, I can’t do that one.”  She was ecstatic.  I said, “Now, wait a minute.  The deal was that I get to give you a simple task to do.”  She said, “Sure.”  The students know enough to watch and learn here (I taught them well.).  I said, “Ok, you have two minutes to put your sweater on by yourself.”

She jumped up and put her sweater on and said, “I’m done.”  I said, looking at the clock, “I said ‘two minutes’, so let’s let the clock go.”  At the end of the two minutes, I said, “You didn’t put your sweater on all by yourself; we were all here with you.”  She was a bit deflated, but took it in stride.  The rest of the class understood the lesson and we continued on.

Keeping my word to them all the time meant that if I said something and they honestly did it, I had to keep my word.  I seldom got caught up in that, but it did happen.  What it did was to create a bond between me and those untrusting students.  They knew if Mr. Vannatter said it, it was true and was going to happen just that way.

I have tried hard to keep that promise to this day.  If I say something, I will do my very best to do it just that way.  Since the stroke, I have increased that by explaining what I will do and all so that, if there are any questions, they are asked and we take care of those concerns, too.

All of this went through my head between seeing that question and now.  It’s important to me and, I think, to others that I keep my word.  I also expect them to keep theirs; it’s only fair.

How do you feel about that ideal?

What is the very important thing you do or don’t do?

Namaste,

Scott

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