True (School) Stories!

US graduatesSchools across the US have primarily one purpose – to prepare students for what comes after high school. Not every student has the same plan after high school. Success doesn’t necessarily mean that every student goes on to college, although that may be a goal for many students. Some students may be ready to enter the workforce immediately after high school. There are many options.

What happens when students spend time in high school varies tremendously. Students are affected by such things as location of their high schools. Small rural high schools are vastly different from inner city high schools in a large metropolis. Other factors that may vary are socioeconomic status of the students, whether students attend a public or private school, extracurricular opportunities, and types of support staff offered at a given school just to name a few things.

One thing that is true for all students in high school across this great land is that they are all part of intricate stories playing out in our high schools.  Many teachers write books about their own teaching experiences such as Ed Boland did in The Battle for Room 314.: My Year of Hope and Despair in a New York City High School.

The Battle for Room 314

Boland was intricately involved in the world of fundraising. He had a passion to raise money for disadvantaged students and in part through his efforts many disadvantaged students were given opportunities of a lifetime. Many went on to Ivy League schools and successful careers. At some point, Boland wasn’t satisfied with just fundraising and decided he actually wanted to teach disadvantaged students. This book differs from others of it’s type in which a first year teacher takes over a classroom and wins educational victories. In Boland’s case, this is a story of an idealistic first year teacher meeting reality head on and trying to figure out how to navigate through a broken educational system that is seriously failing students. For anyone wishing to get a big dose of reality of what American high school is like in our large cities, this is the book for you.

The next story I came to was very different. In light of all of the recent school shootings, this is a heart wrenching book worth taking a look at. It is written by the mother of  Dylan Klebold, one of the two shooters from Columbine High School. This mother agonizes over what went wrong.

A Mother's Reckoning

Dylan Klebold and Eric shot and killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School. They also wounded 24 other people before taking their own lives. Dylan’s mother was as horrified as everyone else but had the added stigma of being a shooter’s mother. For about 16 years, Sue Klebold poured over all of Dylan’s possessions looking for clues as to how (or if) she had missed warning signs. How could her child be involved in something so horrific? Could she have stopped it? Sue lived with grief and shame and shares how she began to come to grips with what happened.

I did not personally know anyone at Columbine, but I do personally know some of Rachel Scott’s family. Rachel was one of the first victims. She was shot for her faith, making her one of the first American Christian martyrs. There is a movie about the Columbine shootings and shows how Rachel became a victim. I highly recommend the movie I’m Not Ashamed.

I'm Not Ashamed

Years before Columbine ever happened, I was working as a Special Education teacher in a Middle School. One of my students was labeled Learning Disabled/Gifted. He was a very bright student who had some academic struggles. Rex (obviously not his real name) was also a very troubled young man. He was extremely bright-and had absolutely no conscience. I remember telling other teachers that Rex was either going to end up a multi-billionaire or in jail. He was the type of student who was bored easily and would try inappropriate things just to see if he could get away with them. His plots could be elaborate. Though I tried not to show it, I always had one eye on Rex. I was tipped off by another student  that Rex was planning something during a school dance–one that I happened to be chaperoning. I knew Rex…I informed the administration about his possible plot during the dance, and sure enough all adult eyes were on him that evening and an unloaded gun was confiscated from him at the dance. Thankfully no students were harmed during this incident and Rex was disarmed easily. I do not know if he brought ammo with him, but his offense was enough to get him expelled from the school. It was actually quite sad. I lost track of Rex but it would not surprise me at all if he ended up a career criminal. Rather than actually chaperoning the dance that night, I ended up doing all sorts of paperwork trying to get Rex placed in a different school where hopefully he could also get in depth emotional help.

Do you have a true school story you’d like to share? Do you have a favorite true school story?






Primary Education

Books and Apple

In the United States, there isn’t a national curriculum like in many other countries. Curriculums, in general, are left up to the discretion of each individual state. States set educational standards that are used to design curriculums, but that also allow school districts to have some input as to what the children are taught.  Click this link to find out about Educational Standards in Indiana.

Although there is no national curriculum in the United States, there is fairly consistent thought on what things should be taught at what grade level. Whether there should be a national curriculum is a serious debate for another day. Today, I’m just interested in discussing some of the books offered at the Fulton County Public Library that can be used to help design curriculums.  This is true if you homeschool, teach in a public or private school, or even just are looking to incorporate good materials into your grade level or subject matter. Some parents may just want to use these materials to supplement their children’s learning experiences.

When I was learning how to teach and also when my children were in school there was a lot of talk about the “Dumbing Down of America.” An internet search of this topic will turn up all sorts of interesting hits. For my purposes here, I will suffice it to say that what our children are currently learning in school isn’t necessarily what we (or the generations before us) were taught.  Sometimes this fact is understandable due to updated information that made previous information irrelevant. For example, we no longer teach children that the earth is a flat plane which ships could sail off of if they got too close to the edge. Due to advances in Science, we can now confidently teach that the Earth is a spherical object in space and that ships will not sail off the edges of the Earth, but can in fact safely sail around the world. However, in other instances there is concern that we are intentionally not teaching students information that hasn’t changed and that actually should still be taught. This type of information may include aspects of history, economics, mathematics, and many other topics. This has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories which I couldn’t even begin touch on in one post, but I will just say that I think there is some room for concern. I’m not promoting conspiracy theories, just the need to be aware of what is and isn’t being taught.

One way to know how much subject matter has changed is by frequently reviewing older textbooks or educational  type books. That is why I am a big fan of book series such as The Core Knowledge Series and similar type series. These books are titled things like What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know.

What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know

These books go up at least through the 6th grade and it’s a fascinating thing to use one of these older books (c. 1990’s) to compare to your child’s current school books. Although in the US schooling is compulsory, it’s still a parent’s responsibility to ensure their child receives the best education possible and there may be times when you will fill the need to “fill in the gaps.”

Even a school cannot teach literally everything. I believe that the very best teachers teach students how to learn by giving them the skills to find information on their own. They need to know how to use resource materials and where to find those resource materials. Good teachers also instill in students a love of learning.

Libraries such as Fulton County Public Library and other similar libraries are great learning resources. Libraries perform a vital function by protecting books by preventing censorship. For instance where would you go to get an older textbook? Many are now out of print and though you may stumble on one in a used book store, your luck at finding one would be much better at a library.

There are times when community members might challenge a book from a school district–or even from a library. What would happen if all of those challenged books were suddenly banned and/or destroyed?

Libraries will protect books in their collection by defending their right to exist. I don’t have to agree with every single book in a library in order to respect it’s right to be there. I do not personally agree with censorship efforts even though there are books that I wish were not in the collection. If I object to say the Koran in my library and successfully get it removed, I wonder how long it would be until someone else objected to the Bible in my library? Censorship is not the answer, education is. Children need to be taught critical thinking skills and how to evaluate information objectively. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Christian, but I invite people to objectively examine the Bible. I also think that there may be reasons I need to examine what’s in the Koran.

Libraries usually have a “Banned Book Week” to draw attention to books that have been challenged.  Below is a previous display of banned or challenged books at Fulton County Public Library.  Libraries have protected these and many other books over the years. Banned book week  is usually the end of September into October–thus the somewhat Halloweenish theme. During this time period, patrons are encouraged to read the “banned books.”

No automatic alt text available.

Though that might have seemed like a bit of a tangent, my point was that libraries will protect even old text books so that patrons like all of you Dewey Hop readers can go and compare them to current text books and make up your own minds as to whether or not schools (or other institutions) are censoring information to lead-or mislead- in a particular direction. Education and critical thinking skills are vital.

In addition to finding curriculum content information, there are also resource books available designed to help enhance the actual teaching of concepts. Here are just a few books of this nature available at the library:

A+ Activities For First Grade

Glues, Brews, and Goos

Phonics Patterns

Do you think the US has a problem with censorship? Do you have ideas to help prevent censorship?



The Gifted Child

Hello I'm Gifted

(Image from Arlington Magazine)

Many people do not realize that the category of “gifted” also falls under the broad umbrella of Special Education.  Many gifted children reveal themselves before the school years, but others do not. Unfortunately, unlike the girl in the image above, children do not come with labels that explain them.

As both a former Special Education teacher and the mother of a gifted child, I can tell you that gifted children create quite a challenge. My daughter mumbled a few syllabic words like “dada” and “baba” and then refused to verbally communicate until she spoke in perfectly constructed full sentences.

I once knew someone who was gifted and when he learned to speak as a child everyone thought he was babbling nonsensically. His mother took him to an expert who recorded him and slowed down the recording. Not only was this guy speaking in full sentences, he was speaking so extremely fast that no one could understand him. It was like his brain was in hyper-drive.  At times he was speaking perfectly constructed sentences in reverse order as well. The expert hypothesized that he was just bored because no one could understand him so he was playing with the sentence structure. Once he learned to slow down, people could understand him so he no longer spoke sentences backwards. Speech can be one of the first introductions to a gifted child’s ability. Often gifted children will use words and express ideas well beyond their years.

I knew I was in trouble when my 2 1/2 year old started asking me questions that I couldn’t answer and asking about things far beyond her years. No parent wants to admit that her toddler is actually smarter than her mother! At 2 1/2 my child told me things like she wanted to study the pyramids of Egypt in depth. I brought home movies and books from the school library on a middle school level for my child to watch and was promptly informed that the material didn’t cover enough information. She then discovered PBS and other educational programming and couldn’t get enough of it.  Since I didn’t want her parked in front of the TV every waking moment, I made sure to get her out into the community and took her to all sorts of educational exhibits and events.  In addition to learning about ancient civilizations, my child was very scientifically curious. Again at 2 1/2 she wanted me to explain things to her like why water from a drinking fountain came out in an arc rather than shooting straight up or outwards. She wanted to know everything about everything. She learned to read early and I couldn’t keep up with her demand for books. She learned to love the library! At around 3 or 4, my child was doing vision therapy to avoid developing a lazy eye. The vision therapist’s office used a reward system where tickets were earned and then used to purchase toys and various other prizes. My daughter exploited a weakness in the system to get tickets and thus earn the bigger/better prizes and finally was told she couldn’t have so many tickets because they thought she was cheating (!). She also exploited a weakness in a similar reward system at Chuck E. Cheese but they never caught on to her method; inventive. (That weakness in the system still exists, by the way.) By the time she was in elementary school she was already doing math at a level well beyond my capability. Her first grade teacher once told me that she had to constantly remind herself that my daughter was just a child–since she often communicated and acted like an adult. She was reading at college level in elementary school and read classic books such as Moby Dick for her book reports (I don’t even know any adults who have actually finished that book!). Around 4th or 5th grade, my daughter scored in the top 1 percentile of a national standardized test–and that got the attention of the school district. I didn’t need a test to tell me what I already knew about my daughter. Did I think she was brilliant? Of course! All parents think their kids are brilliant. However being a Special Ed teacher, I knew this went far beyond just being proud of my daughter-and it was both exhilarating and frightening!

This book, which covers just about everything I’m talking about in this post, may have been helpful to me had I known of it’s existence at the time:


I never pushed the school district to place my daughter in gifted classes. Yes, I wanted her challenged on her academic level, but I also wanted her to actually be a kid. This is a hot topic in the lives of gifted children.  There are other gifted children in my extended family. Some of them have been skipped several grade levels ahead. In one case a child should have been skipped up significantly by grade level but his mother also worried about his socialization and still wanted him to have exposure to other children near his own age, so he only skipped 2 grades despite the school’s pleas to move him higher up. Gifted children can appear to be so adult like that a teacher  (or parent) can forget they are dealing with a child. They still need time to develop emotionally and socially.

Many gifted children, my daughter included, develop tempers which I believe are created by frustration. They may understand things significantly beyond their years in the academic realm, but they may not be aware of social rules and may in fact have missed learning them (by things such as being skipped ahead multiple grades). They also haven’t had time to develop emotional maturity to contend with social rules. For instance, we’ve all heard about child geniuses that have completed doctorate programs before their teens. A child like this functions (and is expected to behave as a college student) in a college environment but may have never learned things the rest of us think should be obvious–such as not answering every question before someone else has a chance, sharing, consideration, being sensitive to other people’s feelings, respecting personal space, being compassionate to people less fortunate than yourself,  etc. You’ve probably heard of (or can think of) people that are very intelligent, but seem to have no common sense. There’s probably a reason for that. Highly intelligent people were likely accelerated in some areas too fast. They actually need time to catch up!

There is a movie called Gifted* which explores a gifted child’s need to just be a child vrs. exploiting their abilities. I highly recommend this movie!


Other gifted children may not reveal themselves via speech or academics. Many gifted children get poor grades in school because they are simply bored and fail to see the point of doing things like homework when they already understand the concepts far beyond what is being taught. Gifted children may have been difficult to potty train because they just didn’t want to stop doing whatever had their interest at the time and go.

Another helpful book to go along with this concept is:

Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades

Teachers are trained to identify other aspects of giftedness such as creativity which may come out in art, for instance, and express concepts far beyond a child’s years or it may be unexpected for a child’s age and experience. I remember a story the Mister told me about when he was in the first grade. The teacher had given her first graders a picture of a duck to color. Most of the children colored their ducks yellow, but the Mister perfectly colored a Mallard Duck! Now imagine all those ducks taped up in a line across the room. One duck stood out. This is often the type of stuff teachers must be constantly looking for. The Mister was one of those students who didn’t particularly see the point of school. (Fortunately through the efforts of many alert teachers–and his parents who were also teachers, he did develop a lifelong love of learning.)

Gifted children may share certain attributes, but all children are unique. A gifted child may have just some of the characteristics listed below or they may have other unique characteristics which are not listed. The list below is only meant to give indicators.

According to the National Association for Gifted Children some common characteristics of gifted children are:

  • Unusual alertness, even in infancy
  • Rapid learner; puts thoughts together quickly
  • Excellent memory
  • Unusually large vocabulary and complex sentence structure for age
  • Advanced comprehension of word nuances, metaphors and abstract ideas
  • Enjoys solving problems, especially with numbers and puzzles
  • Often self-taught reading and writing skills as preschooler
  • Deep, intense feelings and reactions
  • Highly sensitive
  • Thinking is abstract, complex, logical, and insightful
  • Idealism and sense of justice at early age
  • Concern with social and political issues and injustices
  • Longer attention span and intense concentration
  • Preoccupied with own thoughts—daydreamer
  • Learn basic skills quickly and with little practice
  • Asks probing questions
  • Wide range of interests (or extreme focus in one area)
  • Highly developed curiosity
  • Interest in experimenting and doing things differently
  • Puts idea or things together that are not typical
  • Keen and/or unusual sense of humor
  • Desire to organize people/things through games or complex schemas
  • Vivid imaginations (and imaginary playmates when in preschool)

Another fascinating book that Dewey Hop readers may find interesting is:

Off the Charts

This is a fascinating book that explores childhood geniuses and the changing role of parents and counselors across centuries. The book also explores the feelings and psychological concerns with highly intelligent children. Many famous and not so famous (but still important) child prodigies are included in this account; recommended reading.

Do you know any gifted children? Do you have ideas about how gifted children can express themselves but still be kids?


*The move Gifted is not currently available at the Fulton County Public Library. However, if you are interested in seeing it, we can order it for you through the Evergreen system. For those of you outside the state of Indiana, the Evergreen system is a coalition of libraries throughout the state of Indiana that shares library materials which include movies, books, magazines, and various other items.


Special Education

God Created Special Education Teachers

Continuing along in the Education section of the Fulton County Public Library, I’ve reached a section on Special Education. This is a topic quite near to my heart as I was a Special Education Teacher in a “former life.”  I would probably still be in the classroom if not for a family emergency that forced my life in a different direction.

A Child With Special Needs

Having said that, I haven’t been in the classroom for years.  I continue to have the utmost respect for everyone involved in the special education process.

Special Ed Ninja

There is no way I can do justice to the topic of Special Education in just one blog post so I will just share some books that I checked out and encourage anyone interested in this topic to seriously explore it. I tried to choose broad spectrum books that touch on some important aspects of special education.

The Everything Paren’ts Guide to Special Education: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Advocating for Your Child with Special Needs by Amanda Morin is just what it sounds like it is.

The Everything Parent's Guide to Special Education

This book is an excellent resource for parents who are just encountering the Special Education process. It explains such things as what to do if you suspect your child may have some special needs.  The book explains to parents how to approach school officials with your concerns to methods that may be tried before your child is tested for special education placement.  The author takes parents through a discussion of special education terminology, laws affecting special education, categories of disability, steps the school may want to take before actually assessing a child, and what takes place during the referral and placement process just to mention a few things. This book also addresses problems that might occur after placement–such as what to do if a parent believes the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) isn’t being followed and explains a parent’s right to due process. This is one of the most comprehensive books I have seen on this topic. I highly recommend it to parents as well as all  teachers who will surely encounter students with special needs.

The next book I came to was Helping Kids with Special Needs:Resources for Parents and Teachers of Children with Emotional and Neurological Challenges compiled by Julie Nekola. Again, this book is just what it sounds like it is. It is full of resources that anyone involved in the education of special needs students will find very helpful.

Helping Kids with Special Needs

The final book I checked out this time is Just Another Kid by Torey Hayden. This book is a story of a teacher and six emotionally troubled kids.

Just Another Kid

Because I can’t say it better, this is what is on the back of the book:

“Just Another Kid is an enchanting, inspiring book…impossible to put down.”   –The Washington Post

Torey Hayden faced six emotionally troubled kids no other teacher could handle –three recent arrivals from battle-torn Northern Ireland, badly traumatized by the horrors of war; eleven-year-old Dirkie, who only knew of life inside an institution; excitable Mariana, aggressive and sexually precocious at the age of eight; and seven-year-old Leslie, perhaps the most hopeless of all, unresponsive and unable to speak.

With compassion, rare insight, and masterful storytelling, teacher Torey L. Hayden once again touches our hearts with her account of the miracles that can happen in her class of “special” children.

A Literary Guild Alternate Selection

This is an inspiring story about how one teacher can make a difference in the lives of some very special students. I would definitely recommend this book.

This week happens to be Teacher Appreciation week. Be sure to thank a teacher for all teachers are special!

Have you had encounters with Special Education teachers and/or students? Were your encounters positive or negative? Have you ever considered a career in Special Education?



Bully-Free Zone

(A personal addendum to all of the faithful Dewey Hop readers will follow this blog.)

Bullying, or I should say bullying prevention, is a topic near and dear to my heart. As you have probably surmised the library read through has landed us in a section about bullying.  While the books I checked out deal primarily with children, bullying isn’t a problem limited to children.

Weakfish: Bullying Through the Eyes of a Child was written by Michael Dorn.

Michael Dorn as Wharf

Just kidding. Not this Michael Dorn.

This is the author, Michael Dorn.  His book, Weakfish: Bullying Through the Eyes of a Child is a very informative, eye opening book which follows a student, Stephen, through the school years and explains how and why the bullying started.

Michael Dorn Author

Throughout the story, the author inserts his comments concerning what preventitive things could have happened, incidences that should have been reported to the police, how so called “responsible adults” made the problems worse, and how people in charge were more concerned with the image of their various schools than the actual safety of students.


I do not want to say too much about this book and give away the ending. However, if this is a topic that interests you or you currently have school aged children or grandchildren, I do recommend you read this book.

At the end of the book Michael Dorn gives several practical ideas of what can be done to prevent bullying from happening in the first place as well as exercises to help you identify bullying environments.

Other books I checked out were:

Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying Prevention and Intervention


Personal Addendum: Many of you have noticed that the Dewey Hop blog has been more or less off schedule since the end of January. I apologize for the interruption of posts but I was forced to deal with several medical emergencies with various family members. Both my mother ( Jan. 25) and my husband (Apr. 2) passed away after brief illnesses and there have been all kinds of follow up responsibilities. During the time the Mister was in the hospital, my sister had to have emergency surgery and still has ongoing medical issues and two other family members were also hospitalized at the same time (This involved 8 different hospitals, a rehab center, and a hospice. One family member is still in rehab at the time of this writing.)

Unfortunately, the day my mother went into hospice care a coworker was involved in a terrible car accident and died in February, a few weeks after my mother. Because of this, the entire library staff was out for that funeral as well.

I have now returned to work after three funerals and about a month bouncing back and forth to the hospital and hospice to be with family members.

I want to thank all of you Dewey Hop readers for your extreme patience and faithfulness to the Dewey Hop blog.  I appreciate you all. Moving forward I will continue my read through and commenting on the resources of the Fulton County Public Library.


Career Paths

Career Paths

One of the primary objectives of educating our children is to prepare them for a career path. There are choices other than going to college after high school.While college is certainly an acceptable path to a career, it isn’t the only path.

In this post, I would like to highlight a series of books called Success Without College by Robert F. Wilson, et al. There are many books in this series. Here are some of the ones I perused.

Careers with AnimalsCareers in Art and Graphic Design Careers in Cosmotology Careers in the Food Service Industry

Careers in HealthcareCareers in the Law

Carreers in sports, fitness, and recreation

This is a series of books that the reader doesn’t necessarily have to read word for word. Written on about a 5th grade reading level, the books can be used as reference books to find specific information. There is good information and guidance in each book. This series could be used easily in middle or high schools as well as for adults.

In addition to the Success Without College series, I also ran across a Careers For series by McGraw Hill. This series also has various authors. Of the three books I perused in this series, two were written by Jan Godlberg and one was written by Marjorie Eberts and Margaret Gisler. These are the books I checked out:

Careers For 002.JPG

This series is similar to the previous one. However, this series has the added goal of helping people find ways to be paid for pursuing their passions. These books would be appropriate for almost any age.

Did you choose a career without college? Do you know successful people who opted out of college and went right into a career?

Classroom Management


Teachers may be highly educated and up to date on all the latest teaching techniques, but without proper classroom management students will not be learning up to their potential. In The Everything Classroom Management Book by Eric Groves, Sr., classroom management is discussed in depth. Being a former teacher, I still found this book very impressive.

The Everything Classroom Management Book

One day a fellow coworker  at the Fulton County Public Library (also a former teacher and principal) passed by and saw this book laying on my desk. He stopped to look at it and even he was very impressed with it. If there are any first year teachers or aspiring teachers out there I would highly recommend this book for you. Veteran teachers will also find it useful. Filled with content about organization, time savers, and everyday routines this book is already impressive. However, the book goes far beyond the expected. Other topics discussed include legal issues, building relationships, job protection, and alternative careers in the education field.

The next book I came to was The Laughing Classroom: Everyone’s Guide to Teaching with Humor and Play by Dianna Loomans and Karen Kolberg.

The Laughing Classroom

This is a book that basically describes creating a classroom where learning can occur through humor and laughter. To outsiders, these classrooms can sometimes appear out of order, this may be when students are learning the most. It’s important to engage students to hold their interest and this is the primary objective of this book.There are many activities / lessons in this book to help promote humor and laughter in the classroom. This would be a good resource for teachers and others who work with children.

Among Friends: Classrooms Where Caring and Learning Prevail by Joan Dalton and Marilyn Watson promotes a teaching philosophy of building relationships among students and teachers. When students feel a sense of inclusion (no outcasts) they are better able to learn and want each other to succeed.

Among Friends

This philosophy is very similar to The Big Idea by Dennis Littky with Samantha Grabelle which was discussed in my previous post Educational Product.

There is so much that needs to be happening in the classroom environment before any learning can occur. These books will certainly point educators in the right direction.

What do you remember about classroom atmospheres when you were in school? If you’ve been in a classroom recently, how do the classroom atmospheres compare now to when you were in school?




As I continue my read through of the Fulton County Public Library, I find myself immersed in nostalgic memories of my own former teaching career as well as laughing myself silly.  I have really enjoyed reading the books for this post.

The first book that I read was I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza.

I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had

(Yes, for those of you old enough to remember this is the actor, Tony Danza.) For those of you not old enough to know who Tony Danza is, he acted in the sitcoms Taxi

Tony Danza, Judd Hirsch and Danny DeVito (from left) 

and Who’s the Boss?

Who's the Boss

Before Danza was an actor, he was a professional boxer.

Danza Boxer

It was during his boxing career that Tony Danza was “discovered” and then became an actor. What most people don’t know is that even before Danza’s days as a boxer, he trained to be a teacher.

Life has a strange way of taking twists and turns. After college, Danza intended to actually be a teacher but his boxing career took off and he pursued it for awhile. Because of his boxing, he then became an actor, and because of his acting career and his desire to return to his love of teaching, he was offered a reality show called Teach. Teach is a one season DVD series with 7 episodes.

Teach Tony Danza

Tony Danza was actually hired at an inner city school in Philadelphia as a first year teacher. Danza bravely agreed to be filmed as a first year teacher.  There were some concessions that had to be made to the Philadelphia school district to ensure that students would actually receive a legitimate education during the reality show. A teaching coach was assigned to the classroom. He sat at the back during the classroom sessions and then made recommendations and suggestions afterwards. Danza was expected to be like any other teacher in the school and he had extracurricular duties.

This first year teaching experience led to writing I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had, a book which I totally enjoyed. Danza truly does have a heart for kids. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that Danza’s eyes got opened. According to him, teaching is the hardest thing he’s ever done in his life. It’s harder than being a professional boxer. I would totally recommend the book. I liked Teach, the DVD series, but I actually liked the book better.

The next book I read was “Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens?” Teaching Lessons from the Bronx by Ilana Garon. I had to read this book for it’s title alone. I also perk up when I hear about aliens (for more about this see my post Shelf Browsing Leads To Memory Lane.)

Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens

Garon is a young Jewish teacher who explains the realities of teaching in an inner city school in the Bronx. Her book follows the first 4 years or so of her teaching career through two different schools and a sabbatical. While I liked the overall story in the book, I have to admit that I did have some difficulty relating to some of the cultural elements of the students and teachers. Since I’ve never lived in a huge city like New York, many of the concepts were quite foreign to me. For instance, rather than having huge school systems, many of the larger school buildings have been reinvented and may house multiple schools within the same building complete with their own staffs of support people and administrators. In both this experience and also in Tony Danza’s experience, all three schools discussed house their own police department to control their students and the students are sometimes dragged out of class in handcuffs.

The next book I came across was Hugs for Teachers by Martha McKee, Caron Loveless, and LeAnn Weiss.

hugs for teachers

This book is a very quick read book which is faith based, inspirational, and motivational. It is one of those books that you may want to give as a gift to your child’s teacher.

Finally the last two books I read (and laughed myself silly reading) were:

F in Exams   F for Effort

Both of these books by Richard Benson are compilations of wrong (but often quite creative) test answers. I literally laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes and trouble catching my breath! If you need to laugh, I highly recommend these books!

Were you aware that Tony Danza is a certified teacher? Have you ever been to a school that has it’s own police department? Have you ever given “creative” test answers when you didn’t know the real answer?






Several different approaches to this post have been considered. There is just no way to adequately cover homeschooling in one blog post so I’ve decided I will make this post a bit of a survey post to show some of the many options when homeschooling.

Beginning with the most well known version of homeschooling is the Stay at Home approach. This approach in and of itself has many different versions although the most common is when kids learn at home and are taught by one or both parents.

Real-Life Homeschooling

In Real-Life Homeschooling: the Stories of 21 Families Who Teach Their Children at Home by Rhonda Barfield many different methods of homeschooling are explained by the real life families who do them. Many people have an idea in their heads that all homeschoolers do (if they are taught at all) is sit and do worksheets all day. While worksheets might play a part in some homeschooling programs, they are actually not very typical. Most homeschoolers get a very hands on approach to learning complete with educational field trips and instruction in home arts skills. Often homeschooling parents are very capable and good instructors. They have good days and bad days–just like teachers in a public school. When a homeschooling parent is not strong in a certain academic subject and other family members aren’t able to fill in the gap, sometimes they will join Cooperative Home Schools.

In the cooperative homeschooling approach parents may formerly join other homeschoolers and/or organizations. Some cooperative homeschoolers are organized informally because the homeschooling families know and trust each other. Each co-op looks and functions differently. Sometimes homeschooling parents will teach different subjects which may be set up by the day of the week. For instance if one parent is very strong in Math and another is stronger in Language Arts, they may trade kids for a day and teach their particular subject to ensure that the kids are taught well. This isn’t all that different than changing class periods and teachers in a public school. One advantage to setting up a curriculum where students learn math skills on a Monday is that there is more time to explore and practice a particular subject. A more hands on approach can be utilized without time restrictions which allows children to work and learn at their own pace. Some parents using this approach may set it up differently where Math is half a day twice a week or whatever works in their particular situation(s).  The possibilities are endless.

In addition to the two approaches listed above, now there are also Hybrid Home Schools. This approach amounts to part time homeschooling. In this approach students may attend an actual school (often a private one) a few days a week and learn at home the rest of the week. This approach has also been called the Collegiate Model since the schedule will resemble a college student’s schedule.

I have also heard of some newer versions of homeschooling which I believe would fall into a hybrid description. In this approach a small amount of homeschoolers (maybe 3 or 4 students from different families) are taken to another home, usually another homeschooling family. They maintain fairly regular school hours but are instructed in small groups by the homeschooling parent(s) who reside there. A fee is charged (similar to private schools) to take on these extra students, but all the benefits of homeschooling are maintained. Though there are regular hours there is heightened flexibility in scheduling to accommodate family schedules, doctor’s appointments, and the like.

Although I’m sure all of us could think of a few exceptions, usually homeschooling families are quite dedicated and organized. In my read through of the Fulton County Public Library, I came across many resources and suggestions for homeschool organization, including how to keep academic records and create transcripts for college entry. Since I can’t go into all of this in depth, I will just show a few of the (many) books that I checked out on this topic.

The Well-Trained MindThe Complete Guide to Homeschooling

Setting the Record Straight

The cost of home schooling ranges from free to quite expensive. Many families strive for the free range while still providing quality education. For those interested, the following book would be a good place to start your research.

Homeschool Your Child for Free

Another book worth checking out is The Well-Adjusted Child: the Social Benefits of Homeschooling by Rachel Gathercole.

The Well-Adjusted Child

Homeschooling families are often accused of neglecting the social development of their children by keeping them isolated. This has been changing quite a bit in the last several years. Homeschoolers are now much more conscientious about providing socialization activities.

Homeschooling laws may vary from state to state. According to the A -to-Z Homeschooling  site, in Indiana all you have to do is start homeschooling. There aren’t a lot (if any) forms to fill out. There are, however, some guidelines for parents which are recommended by the Indiana Department of Education. If interested in homeschooling, be sure to check the laws of your own state. Some states require the supervision of homeschoolers by a licensed teacher.

Do you know anyone who is homeschooling? Is homeschooling something that you would be interested in? What is your opinion of homeschooling?



Schools are such important institutions in today’s society. Have you ever wondered how and why our educational system came into being? The One-room Schoolhouse by Paul Rocheleau does an excellent job of chronicling the origin of public education to present day.

The One Room School House

Before there were colonies in America, public education was virtually nonexistant. Only the elite and members of the clergy were formally educated. Most common people were illiterate.  A few commoners learned to read if they were taught by the elite or learned by being an apprentice but this was more the exception than the rule.

American colonies were more or less settled by groups of people seeking religious freedom.  With the invention of the printing press privately owned Bibles were more common. The Quakers in particular wanted their children to be able to read. Schools were established primarily to teach people how to read  their Bibles.  The primary textbook of any school was the Bible. Every school day was also started with prayer.

One room schoolhouses were built. They were usually situated near a field and built in areas where children lived. Early educators made school buildings convenient to where the children were, whereas today schools are built for the convenience of the school districts and children are bussed to the schools.

The one room school houses were built out of a variety of building materials, usually whatever was available locally.  Sometimes there were embellishments to the basic rectangular design of the schools and as colonies became more prosperous they would be built with a bit more flair since schools often pulled multiple duties as schools, churches, voting places, and social halls. The earliest schools that were framed buildings were not usually painted in the beginning since paint was very expensive and not readily available. Again, when colonies became more prosperous it was reflected in their schools. Paint began to be a part of the buildings as well as other embellishments. The financial health of any given community was often reflected in the details of their school(s).

Some schools were built from wood / trees:

Old One Room School Indiana County, PA Route 110 1969

log one room school

Some builders used mud and built schools in an adobe style:

Adobe one room school house

Some were brick:

brick one room school

Some were made of stone:

stone one room school house

Sometimes different structural designs were tried with more progressive ideas such as this octagonal one room school:

octagonal one room school

The idea behind the octagonal design was the progressive thinking at the time of believing if the student desks were placed around the walls, the teacher could maintain a close proximity to students by being in the center of the room and more readily accessible to all of the students. It didn’t take long to figure out that placing students behind the teacher’s back was not a good idea. Many a teacher who tried this method found him or her self the object of mischief.  This design didn’t last too long.

Particularly in the colder states,  “cloak rooms” began to be added to one room school houses. A cloak room was just an inside wall. It’s primary purpose was to keep out as much cold air as possible when the door (or doors) were opened. However, the back of this wall was used to store coats, jackets, lunches, and  free time items used for recess periods or lunch breaks.

Cloak Room

Lunch Pail

lunch pail 2.

The cloak room also had the advantage of allowing the teacher to see exactly who was coming in to the school and who was leaving. A popular arrangement was to place the teacher’s desk in front of the cloak room wall. In this way the teacher knew the comings and goings of students and his or her back was protected. In the next image, note the doors on both ends of the cloak room wall. Boys and girls entered through separate doors.

Teacher's Desk

One room school houses in the US were in use roughly from the 1700’s to the present day.  The majority of one room school houses finally closed their doors as schools in the mid to late 1940’s. Some of the one room schools had been updated with modern lights and electricity. As communities began to grow and the populations grew, sometimes the one room school houses were partitioned off into separate rooms and often there was more than one teacher. In those areas that were growing rapidly, sometimes second stories were added to the buildings. Eventually multi-room schools were built and began to resemble the schools we know today.

Those of us who went to elementary schools built circa the 1940’s or 1950’s will remember cloak room hallways attached to our classrooms:


These “modern cloak rooms” were actually a small hallway with hooks on each side. Boys used hooks on one side and girls used the opposite wall of hooks. Just like their predecessors, these cloakrooms also stored lunch and items used at recess or lunch periods. These cloakrooms were not only practical, they were also a nostalgic nod to the past.

School Lunch 3

Quakers (New Englanders) weren’t the only people to influence schooling and education. There were other middle and southern colonies. Since like people seemed to settle mostly together, there were other ideas pertaining to education. In Europe, elite education had long been established. The elite from the southern colonies sent their children overseas to be educated “back home” in England. Of those children who remained to be educated in the south, their educational model was based on England’s schools. The middle colonies were comprised of quite a diverse melting pot of people all seeking to pursue their own religious beliefs. The majority of these people became unified and learned to be tolerant of each other because they were primarily Protestants. Since the primary goal of the schools at this point was to teach people to read their Bibles, the educational system was eventually able to blend and meld towards common goals. There were some exceptions to this such as early groups of Jewish immigrants in Rhode Island and New York. In Maryland there was a Catholic settlement. However the majority of people in the New World labeled themselves as Protestant and the thirteen colonies considered themselves a “Protestant nation.”

Schools were segregated in the south. Black schools in the south were often run down structures, ill equipped with books and supplies. Often untrained teachers could only teach what they knew.

Black One Room School

If  blacks learned to read before there were black schools in the South,  it was likely because a white person taught them. It was extremely dangerous in some southern states for a black person to be literate. Unfortunately there was a prevailing attitude of extreme white supremacy and an era of slavery. Plantation owners feared a slave rebellion if blacks were educated.  After the  abolition of slavery, black schools were allowed but were often extremely overcrowded.

Overcrowded Black School

These horrendous conditions were tolerated at first because southern blacks were grateful to have any educational opportunities at all. Some black educators were happy to have whites stay out of their curriculum. However, the black schools were still at the mercy of white overseers.

Not everyone agreed with these conditions, however, and both blacks and whites worked towards a more equal system of education. In 1954 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously  “that legally-sanctioned racial segregation in the public schools is a violation of the US Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the laws.” It was still several years until desegregation was fully enforced in all states.  However, this ruling by the Supreme Court forever changed education in the US and was a major victory celebrated by many blacks and whites alike. Unfortunately not everyone was happy about this turn of events. The need to fight discrimination on many fronts–including education–eventually led to the Civil Rights Movement.

As the various settlements grew, education was becoming compulsory. Most settlements were required to have an elementary school which taught basic subjects of reading, writing, religion, and colonial law. Girls were educated in these subjects until the ages of 10-12. Girls then often received additional lessons in sewing, weaving and other home arts. (Today we can see a similar model in the Amish community where girls are usually educated to the 8th grade and then receive instruction in sewing and home arts.)  Girls (usually from elite families who made sure to educate both their sons and their daughters) did have the option of going to a “Dame School.” Often this was a residential school taught by a widow. The widow would take in a number of children for a fee or something bartered and teach the girls fundamental skills. Wealthy families could hire private tutors to teach their children at home, while those families who were not wealthy may have made a contract  called an apprenticeship. Under this agreement a child (almost always a boy) would be an apprentice for a specified period of time and learn a trade from a skilled craftsman.

For those who were exceptional students, the colonies provided “schools of higher learning.”  In the earlier years of the colonies, these schools were almost always comprised of boys.  These schools were free to the poor, but were funded through tax payer money and were sometimes called English free schools. Just like in Europe, these schools often taught their material in the original language. For instance if the original source was in Latin, the subject would be completely taught in Latin. The same was true of subjects (like the Bible) that were originally written in Hebrew or Greek. These schools were also called “Latin grammar schools.”

Around the mid 1700’s, people began to complain that the grammar schools were outdated and needed to be modernized. Many did not think that the classic approach to education was beneficial to colonial life. In 1749 Benjamin Franklin wanted to add content subjects such as business, technology, sciences, mathematics, and other subjects that would be more practical to colonial life. Franklin thought the content should be chosen according to the vocation that a given student wanted to pursue. Franklin was ahead of his time though and was considered too “secular” in his thinking so the grammar schools continued for some time teaching core concepts in foreign languages and teaching the Bible.

Eventually other core subjects were added in to the school curriculum and more opportunities opened up for girls and women in higher education. One of the reasons that women began to be better educated was the growing demand for more teachers. At that time, most teachers were female although there were some men involved in education. My Grandma, Amy Wolcott Cramer, taught school in a one room school house in Iowa.

Below is a picture of Prill School built in 1876 and located right here in Fulton County, Indiana (approximately 15 minutes away from the Fulton County Public Library):

Prill School

Prill School has been preserved as a museum and sometimes local school children go there to learn about the past. I couldn’t find out for sure, but I believe this photo was taken just prior to the preservation work.

Inside Prill School

For those of you who like a ghost story, it is said that the Prill School area is haunted by a former teacher. In the picture above, a young woman plays the part of a school teacher named Sarah. To locals she is known as “Sister Sarah.” There are many Sister Sarah stories. Here is one from

Prill School is haunted by a woman named Sister Sarah. Some say if you go out there on the night of a full moon and you sit with your rearview mirror facing the tree in the yard, you will see her ghost next to or in the tree. Other people say that on a full moon if you leave a piece of paper with questions on it and come back the next day, there will be answers written on there to the questions that were asked. Sister Sarah was a teacher in the school when it was open. There are many stories to how and why she died and God knows which one is the truth. There are so many stories to if you go out there at night. [Sic]

This is but one of many stories. If you are interested in a few more stories, follow the link to Sister Sarah. Many local people still claim to have had bizarre experiences at Prill School including one of my coworkers. There are probably hundreds of Sister Sarah stories but not all Sister Sarah stories are related to Prill School. Some surround her home, grave, and area where she lived.

There are still many one room school houses in Indiana and indeed in the country; all of which are in various conditions of existence. I believe that some are still open and functioning as Amish schools. There are some one room schools in the US still operating as historical or specialized schools. Some of the old one room schools have been converted into private homes. Sadly many of these historical treasures sit in states of disrepair.

Amish School

Other books I checked out but don’t have time to comment on:

School Days

On the Same Track Schools That Do Too Much

Have you ever participated in a one room school reenactment? Are there any one room schools in your area? If so, what are they being used for? Where you aware that US schools were started with the express purpose of teaching people to read the Bible?