What Kind of Philosopher Are You?

Hey, kids.

Just for fun, I’ve linked you to a few philosopher self-tests. So go ahead and take any or all of them. And in the comments, let us know what test(s) you took, if they agree and how accurate you think they are.

You can find the tests here, here and here.

On Monday; Alexander the Great!

Literature Circle Assessment

Hey, kids.

For this novel study, the assessment will come mainly from my observations and our conversations regarding the novel your group is reading. This will happen on a daily basis as you meet with your group and grapple with some kind of discussion prompt or other activity I’ve posted. As such, I want to make sure the assessment expectations are absolutely crystal clear.

In an effort to get everyone involved, you tell me in the comments below what you think I should be looking for on a daily basis. Pretend I’m carrying around a clipboard with a checklist on it. What should be on that checklist? You can go right from the basics like, “has book,” all the way up to more sophisticated items.

So, leave your suggestions in the comments section, I’ll take them into consideration and we’ll debrief on Monday when I reveal the checklist itself.

Why I Love Studying

I started this post with the idea in mind that I’d provide my Big History students with a little taste of why we’re doing this three-ish week unit on world history. I mean, aside from the usual reasons like, I’m your teacher, you’re  my students so let’s do this thing!

It all has to do with purpose. I study for a reason. And by “study” I mostly mean “read.” I’ve offered this advice before: read! Sometimes I read very carefully and take notes, intending to use them later for some specific purpose. Sometimes I’m just reading, fiction or non-fiction, just kind of vaguely letting it sink in. That’s okay too. But why do I do any of it? Because I can’t think of a single reason why I shouldn’t be developing my mind to the highest possible point it can reasonably be developed.

That’s it. That’s all. I really don’t mean to sound elitist or snobby about it. In fact, it’s the opposite. I want everybody to develop their minds to the highest possible degree.

And part of doing that, for me at least, is learning some history. It’s a great avenue for accessing all kinds of topics like: why we behave the way we do; what’s the fairest way to divide up all our stuff; was it a mistake coming down out of the trees; and, most importantly, how can we as a species reach the absolute pinnacle of our potential?

I’m not in a hurry. I suspect that last one will only happen once we sublimate our consciousness into the fabric or spacetime itself. Which I don’t imagine will happen for a while.

In the meantime, let’s make some sense of this crazy world. Or do our best to try.

Whatcha Readin’?

Hey, English students. I’m putting this here as our central hub to simply share what we’re reading. That’s all I require of you this week. Please use the comments section to share with us what you’re reading; how you chose it; early impressions; ongoing thoughts (throughout the week); or anything else you’d like to share. Just remember to pop in at least once a day, have a look at what people are saying and drop in a comment or reply of your own.

Start today with just a quick check-in so I know who’s paying attention.

The Nineties

No, not the best decade in the history of everything. I’m talking about marks. More specifically, marks in the nineties and what it’s supposed to take to get one.

Let’s set some context. Mark inflation is a problem. The common perception (and I definitely don’t disagree) is that kids are getting higher and higher marks for doing less (and lesser) work. And I can prove it with a couple of examples. In speaking with my colleagues I discovered that one of them had received the grade twelve English award at his high school. Top honours. Highest mark. Congratulations! And that mark was an 86%. Another colleague told me that he gave one kid once a 100%. Once. In his near 30 year career.

Now listen; I have no trouble handing out dozens of nineties. You’re not all in competition for a limited number of them like it was in the old days.  However, I think we all need to be clear on what it takes to get one. I have a few suggestions.

Start Earlier

Taking marks off for late work is supposed to be a thing of the past. Mostly. I mean, there’s no direct penalty for handing an assignment in late but do you really think you’ll pound out an essay that’s any good a month after we’ve been covering that material in class? Also, I doubt very much that you’ve gone through a rigorous research, drafting and editing process. It just doesn’t work that way.

Plagiarism

You can’t. You just can’t. Not even a little bit. Not even a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, tiny widdle bit. Not at all. So knock it off. Stop it. Seriously.

Read a Book

This is one of my favourites. I mention a lot of books in class. Books I’ve drawn much of my material and ideas from. Here’s what a kid who wants a ninety + does: reads one and talks to me about it. Crazy, right? Read a whole book you don’t have to? That’s actually kind of the point. A mark in the nineties is supposed to be, by definition, extraordinary. Therefore, it must follow from extraordinary behaviour.

Take Initiative

This can come in many forms but it mostly means doing things I didn’t have to ask you to do. And that ranges all the way from simply keeping an eye on the website for things that might be important (including this post) to, as mentioned above, reading a book I didn’t ask you to read. Where it comes to assignments, it doesn’t necessarily mean doing more but it might mean doing something better. For instance, I won’t give an essay a ninety simply because it’s twice as long as what I asked for. However, if you are able to come up with some kind of twist, idea or connection that makes your paper stand out from the rest, then we’ve got something.

Also, and I shouldn’t even really be counting this as “taking initiative,” but for goodness sake read all the instructions and do what I ask! If I ask for an emailed assignment, don’t come in and hand me a hard copy. I know that’s not really a part of the assessed curriculum but it does point to a certain level of oblivion that is certain to raise its head elsewhere as well.

Do Impeccable Work

You can’t ask for a ninety when your work has basic grammatical or factual errors in it. So be careful with that. Names get capital letters. No human has done anything, “since the beginning of time.” So stop saying that. Check your facts. Get a good proof-reader.

Show Up Every Day and Do All the Things 

Attendance has nothing to do with your mark. Except it totally does. Of course it does! There’s just no way you’re as engaged in the course as a kid who’s here every day (mostly) and taking part in the discussions, watching the videos, diligently taking notes, participating in white-table activities. Highly unlikely at any rate.

Also, assignments: do them. All of them. Even if they’re not good, attempts matter. I will deliberately push you to do things or grapple with ideas that are difficult and unfamiliar. That’s what education is. So, when I ask you to try something, try it. And see above for when that attempt should be made.

Read

I realize this is a bit redundant to the “take initiative” and “read a book” advice but I felt it deserved its own heading.

This might be the actual most important one. Here’s the hard truth: most of you have a great deal of catching up to do in your actual education. By that I mean you haven’t read nearly enough. I won’t bother going into the benefits of regular, wide and deep reading. What I will say is you have to do more of it. Much, much, much more. Read everything. Read the news. Read articles. Pick a few favourite sources and check in on them daily. Read lots and lots of books. If time weren’t a factor, here’s the advice I would give every, single kid who came to me with some variation of the “how can I do better?” question: read 100 books then come back and we’ll talk.

In Conclusion

When we do a self-assessment at the end of the semester and you ask for a mark in the nineties, I will ask you to tell me which of the above things you did and to what degree you did them. If you are unaware of the list’s existence, it will be a very short conversation as the point will already have been made.

Mid-Term Self-Assessment

A couple of you have been asking for this and it’s a good thing too because, as always, the marks deadline crept up on me like a wood-elf archer, wearing shrouded armour boots with a level 87 sneak ability.

I might be playing too much Skyrim.

Anyhoo, here’s the survey. As always, take off your modesty hat and put on your honesty hat. I really want to know what you think and I’ll do what I can to accommodate.

Cultural Appropriation

G’morning, kids! Today, let’s see if we can’t shed some light on this whole “cultural appropriation” controversy. You’ve watched “The Lone Ranger.” We’ve had a chat about Johnny Depp playing the role of Tonto. Now it’s time to dig deeper.

All I require from you today is to head out into the internet and fetch us one article on the topic of, you guessed it, cultural appropriation.

To help broaden your search, the article can be about the topic in general, or the appropriation of anyone’s culture, not just indigenous people.

Once you’ve found your article, simply post a link in the comments section below, along with a brief summary of the article’s contents.

Trial Lists

I thought it might be easiest to put the link to the daily court schedule here.

After you agree to their terms and conditions, you can select which court you want (select “both”). Then you can choose what kind of case you want from civil, family, criminal and small claims. I suspect many of us will go straight for “criminal.” However, if you want to see some real Judge Judy action, small claims is where it’s at!

Plagiarism Checker

Want to avoid that awkward conversation I’ve had to have with some of you regarding your plagiarized papers? Good. Me too. Here’s an online plagiarism checker I found. Use it before you submit your work to me. It’s free, giphydoesn’t require an account set-up, is fast and generates a PDF report you can print and frame. If you want. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.