My Perspective of School Shootings

I don’t really know where to start on this one. I have been thinking and feeling about this ever since I heard about it. Almost everything I hear about this, as far as solutions, makes me think to myself, “No, that ain’t it.” I guess more accurately I see that their perspective is not my perspective. The question I now ask myself this question; “What is my perspective?”

First, I should tell you about my current situation. I am mathematics teachers at a charter high school under the umbrella of a public school system. The school system is part of the suburbs of a major American city. I teach in a 12 foot by 24 foot trailer in the shadows of four story building. There is no fence between my trailer and the school’s neighborhood. The location of the school and study body is definitely middle class.

Is it safe? Mostly. I have yet to see violence at this school in my three years here, although it occasionally happens. On the other hand, I once read a news report that said a 16-year-old student who was trying to sell some handguns was caught across the street from the school and arrested a few years ago. I am in a place where street guns exist and I teach in a vulnerable physical position. Yet I am not scared. Why? I do not really know. I guess I trust the students and families of the neighborhood.

I have been in worst places. I taught for four years at school in a rough neighborhood that had an armed robbery performed directly across the street from the school and used the school parking lot for the location of the getaway car….during school hours. I taught at a school where a student expressed a desire to copy the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the Colorado shooting. (Administration got intel on this and put the student on home schooling for a while.) Another kid at this school was gone for three months because he got shot in the butt cheek. (This is the school I graduated from as a youth.) I taught in California, where my bandana in my pocket elicited questions from students of Crips or Bloods, even though one band was yellow and another was purple.

Despite all of this, I feel perfectly fine showing up to school everyday. In fact, I look forward to it. I love my students and I love, or at least like, most of the people I work with. When I try to answer the question for myself about my lack of fear, I come across two things that influence me. First, I have this twisted thing in my psyche that goes something like this; I am scared of the things that I should not be scared of and not scared of things I should be scared of. The other thing that explains part of this comfort I feel is that I feel strongly that I do everything I can do understand what is going on with the people around me. I keeps me feeling safe.

I guess it is part of my survival mode. I grew up as the littlest guy in class. (I am now about 6 feet tall and weigh about 220 pounds.) I had few friends and we lived on the edge of some pretty rough neighborhoods. I heard of guys getting beat up and jumped but I escaped those kind of confrontations. I guess it was my humor. Maybe charm. Maybe being scrawny and shy. Maybe I was just lucky. It certainly wasn’t my toughness.

Anyway, I do feel like we need to hash out a solution to this problem. We  need to do something that makes us feel a little safer. But what? All the solutions I have heard (arming teachers, arming veterans, etc.) are obviously from people that don’t know schools or teachers very well. In the gun debate, I have a tendency to believe that less is better. Don’t worry, Mr. Cat Scratch Fever, I am not advocating taking all your guns. I’m just saying to remove the guns of those meant for a battle field. Or just turn them into harmless toys. You don’t need those just like you don’t need hand grenades and tanks and bazookas.

On a similar note, I love what some high school kids are doing. We have heard for years how we want teenagers to think for themselves. Now, when they do, many people are telling them to be quiet because they are “just kids.” I, on the other hand, I am so proud of them that it almost makes me cry like a proud parent. Kudos to the teachers and parents who taught them so well.

And the solution? In my eyes, we, as adults, need to start paying attention. We need to stop “mailing it in.” Students are pissed and tired of our lame leadership. Why don’t we just sit back and listen to what they have to say. You might be amazed. And not just these brilliant kids on TV. Let’s listen to the disgruntled 9th grader who is failing all his classes. And everyone in between. If we don’t listen and watch them all, who knows where our next shooter may come from. Just watch, listen and act if we have to….Because, at some point, we will be required to take the right action.

My Perspective of School Shootings

Changing the World, Part Two

Let me take a second run at this. I recently posted my need for participants in my study for my dissertation. Thanks to some comments from some great mentors, I decided to make some adjustments. The process is now simpler and more streamlined, so as to put as little stress on the participant yet still achieve my objective.

Since my last post, I have received great advice, about 75 likes from many geographic places and one verbal commitment from a volunteer, unrelated to this post. So here goes the official recruitment flyer;

Are you a secondary math teacher in the United States?

Are you looking for ways to improve the ways secondary math is taught?

My name is Claudius “Bo” Guynn and I am a PhD student at Saybrook University in Oakland, California. I am doing a dissertation study titled, “Person Centered Teaching in the Classroom.” As part of this study, I need 8 volunteers. They would be trained in psychological methods for classroom methods leading to a greater appreciation of the meaningfulness, usefulness, and joy of mathematics.

If you are interested, please contact me at cguynn@Saybrook.edu and

will share the details of this proposed study.

 

Sincerely,

Claudius L. Guynn IV

 

In addition to this flyer, here is my “flyer from my heart”;

I know you heard it before but America sucks in math education when compared to the rest of the world. In the latest figures (2015), the U.S. is 42nd out of 72 countries. It is the twelfth country below the word average and their average score is 20 points below the world average. Since the last test, the U. S.’s average dropped 11points.

Have I got your attention? Do you feel the need to improve as a country in math education? I don’t care if it is USA pride or a knowledge that math knowledge leads to better employment prospects. I care that you want to help make a change.

If you want a change, I would think that you would try anything that hasn’t been tried before, as long as it doesn’t take too much of your time and focus. Here is your opportunity; I am a PhD candidate at a prestigious psychology graduate school and I am doing a dissertation study that takes about 5 minutes a workday for about 4 weeks. It is my hope that this takes mathematics to a deeper intellectual level and thereby increases mathematical knowledge retention.

If you a secondary (middle school and high school) mathematics educator, you can help by volunteering. If you are not, you can help by spreading the word to passionate mathematics educators who are looking for a positive change. I need 3 to 8 volunteers to move this forward.

If you think I sound desperate, you are right. If you think I sound passionate about improving the lives of adolescents, you are right. If you think I teach way outside of the box, you are right. I believe in this study and I will do anything I can to complete this study (and finish my PhD.)

If you are interested, just send your email to claudiusguynn@hotmail.com or cguynn@Saybrook.edu.

Changing the World, Part Two

Wanna Help Change the World (through mathematics education)?

I know you heard it before but America sucks in math education when compared to the rest of the world. In the latest figures (2015), the U.S. is 42nd out of 72 countries. It is the twelfth country below the world average and their average score is 20 points below the world average. Since the last test, the U. S.’s average dropped 11 points.

Have I got your attention? Do you feel the need to improve as a country in math education? I don’t care if it is USA pride or a knowledge that math knowledge leads to better employment prospects. I care that you want to help make a change.

If you want a change, I would think that you would try anything that hasn’t been tried before, as long as it doesn’t take too much of your time and focus. Here is your opportunity; I am a PhD candidate at a prestigious psychology graduate school and I am doing a dissertation study that takes about 15-20 minutes a workday for about 4 weeks. It is my hope that this takes mathematics to a deeper intellectual level and thereby increases mathematical knowledge retention.

If you a secondary (middle school and high school) mathematics educator, you can help by volunteering. If you are not, you can help by spreading the word to passionate mathematics educators who are looking for a positive change. I need 3 to 8 volunteers to move this forward.

If you think I sound desperate, you are right. If you think I sound passionate about improving the lives of adolescents, you are right. If you think I teach way outside of the box, you are right. I believe in this study and I will do anything I can to complete this study (and finish my PhD.)

Here are the words of the flyer is used to attract participants;

“Are you a secondary mathematics instructor in the United States?

Are you looking for ways to improve the ways secondary mathematics is taught?

My name is Claudius “Bo” Guynn and I am a PhD student at Saybrook University in Oakland, California. I am doing a dissertation study titled, “Person Centered Teaching in the Classroom.” As part of this study, I need 8 volunteers who would be taught the steps used in dream work. These steps would then be used to provide a foundation for class closings that is intended to lead to deeper immersion into the daily subject matter.

If you are interested, please contact me at cguynn@Saybrook.edu and I will share the details of this proposed study.

Sincerely,

Claudius L. Guynn IV

Saybrook University”

This has been published on a couple of social media pages. What do you think the response was? It was liked by a few dozen people (and I thank you!) and attracted zero participants. Why do you think this happened? Did I only reach people who can do little to help me, like parents and teachers of other disciplines? (It made me think how parents and students may be embracing change far more than educators. Who are really working for here?)  Was I not convincing enough? Possibly.

I can’t help but wonder one thing; Are my readers ready to embrace change, as long as somebody else does it? Is it like the recent school shootings; many people with simple answers to complex questions and others blaming various others?

It is my belief that it does little good to blame people other than myself. Also, I also believe that only complex answers solve complex issues. I know some this seems hypocritical on my part. I am blaming others for not responding. The difference, from my view, is that I am asking the questions so I can solve the problems. I am asking, you, my reader, where I have gone wrong. When I get that feedback, I will work to change it, whatever way I can. All I need is a few people who believe in this.

Wanna Help Change the World (through mathematics education)?

My Personal Purpose for Changing Education

Christmas morning. Over the years, it has meant many different things to me. Nowadays, it is all about reflection. Where am I and where am I going? Where is my head? More importantly, where is my heart?

On this holiday morning, everything is in my 6-year-old grandson. For the moment, I am inside him and watching him, at the same time. He is me and I am him. I want to be the someone I needed when I was young.

What does he need from me? He needs me to be the best man I can be. He needs a guide. But, more than anything, he needs me to clear a path so he can be the man the Universe intended him to be.

How can I, with my given talents, clear the path for him? The best way I know is to do all I can make our public school system the best it can be. And we have a long way to go. It is, as many of Southern colleagues say, “A hot mess.”

Where do we start? I don’t believe anybody is going to let me change things from the top. Administrators seem scared of my ideas. Mainstream teachers seem to be scared to step aside to see what they are really doing. Many are more concerned with “surviving” until retirement. Some others just see it as a job and don’t want to make any waves. For whatever reasons, there doesn’t seem to be many educators who willing to make a change for the better.

That’s why I want to take my little corner of education and transform it as a model of the right way to education. Maybe someone will notice my ways and want to duplicate it. Maybe someone powerful will pay attention to my research and essays. Maybe I will get the opportunity to teach teachers my unusual but effective ways. I don’t care how it happens, as long as positive change happens. Admittedly, I am always looking for my own educational and teaching freedom.

I see kids on the verge of dropping out. I see kids getting pushed out the door. I see kids transferring to home schooling. I write letters to help kids get into private schools. I understand their motives. But I can’t understand why we can’t fix public schools so they don’t want to leave. It seems we are too busy acting like a government agency instead of a service for the general population, paid by the general population, to improve the general population.

Of course, I am off to a rough start; I teach in a 12 foot by 24 foot trailer called a few “portable classroom.” I rather refer to it as a “Learning Chateau.” And I feel a little scared to do anything different because I was recently suspended for protecting some students. Despite these factors, I want public schools safe and productive by the time my dear grandson, and kids his age, get to public high schools. I want to do that for all kids of his age. (Ones like little Hudson, Travis?!)

I do this because I love and care for my grandson and I love and care about all the students I have taught over the years. For many of them, I felt like I was the only one that cared deeply about their success. A few even referred to me as “Dad.” I guess I am just doing what is expected by my “family.”

My Personal Purpose for Changing Education

Dreams and teaching

For a few years now, I have been trying to combine the two worlds of dreaming and teaching. Each are great teachers of who I am and how the world works. These topics are what my psychology degree is about. However, I never really imagined them coming together there way they did while I slept the other night.

About fifteen years ago, my wife was really concerned about my explosive and destructive anger. Through a series of events, I taught myself meditation and it was a game-changer; my anger and its episodes were greatly reduced and my wife could tell immediately on days that I did not meditate. But there was another bonus to meditation; when I meditated, I made the greatest discoveries and had the greatest ideas when I was meditating. Over the years since then, I turned to many other versions that gave me more awareness about what goes inside my psyche. In 2009, Jungian dream work found me. It has been the most powerful thing that has ever happened to me. It has led down roads I would have never gone down. It has made me learn things about me that I would have never otherwise learned. And, guess what? It has given me the greatest ideas about how to lead my life as a human and to become the best teacher I can be. I had one of those ideas on Saturday morning.

Allow me to back up a bit. I am a high school mathematics teacher with about a dozen years of experience. I am always looking for ways to become a better teacher. When I first became a teacher in 2000, I was instructed by an administrator that my classes should be designed with a four-part plan in mind. During my teaching career, I have been resistant to many educational ideas. This is not one of those times; the part lesson plan is a great template for designing a daily class. What are the four parts? The first 15% is a warm up exercise, the next 35% is teaching, the following 35% is practice and the last 15% of the time is closing exercise that gives everyone feedback about how much they learned. I have used this template for 12 years of teaching. However, I use this varies from other teachers. In my research and teaching, I have changed the opening, tested its effectiveness in a research project. I am convinced it is an improvement. I am now writing a proposal to correct the flaws with a closing exercise. my experience with this idea tells me that my idea is an improvement but it is also a work in progress. I believe it has great potential.

But what about the middle parts? Are they fine they way they are? Well, yes and no. The teaching portion of classes has plenty of research and support. In my experience, education journals and classrooms are full of great ideas on how to present any mathematical concepts. Therefore, it is my belief that these ideas can work for people that want to learn these concepts. What I am saying is that these do not need to change this portion of teaching.

However, the practice part, and its transition from the teaching, is ineffective. In my opinion, that is the reason that many schools educate the upper echelon of students are well-educated in mathematics and the rest are not. Not only that but bright students believe that they are poor students and “cannot do math.” In this part of a math lesson, the is when teachers give classwork/homework. It makes me think of Finland education. They eliminated homework and they went from having mediocre achievement to having the highest achievement in the world. There are studies that say homework is ineffective in high school. Teachers see it as practice at refining skills and students see it as busy work. Who is right in this debate?

Back to my dream. Maybe it presented me with a possible answer. Here is description of what I reported in my dream journal; “As I wake up, I have thoughts about the pattern of Sunday School and Church; Sunday School is about gaining knowledge and Church is about gaining inspiration. Why can’t this be a pattern for teaching and learning? Deliver the information and then feel the knowledge!” As I thought about this idea, I thought about where teaching was effective and why was it such a surprise. For example, the idea of the “dumb jock.” These are guys who are absolutely the worst example of a student. A bad example because they are uncomfortable in the classroom but geniuses in their playing venue. Math is logic and they suck in class. However, they play basketball or football or soccer and they can read a complex defense in a flash. How can this be? In my view, because they feel every success and every failure. When they succeed, they are Superman. When they are wrong, these athletes are embarrassed and beaten.

So how can we translate this to the classroom? Or the board room? Or the workplace? We can translate this by discovering that we need to find the student a way to FEEL what we are teaching them. We need to find ways to replace classwork and homework with something we can feel. What does this look like? I don’t know yet. I need to investigate ways that inspire and helps the student to feel what I am teaching. I need to know that we all have different feelings. I need to know that it is hard for some people to feel anything at all. The learning has to become emotional, for me and them. Can we sing the concept? Can we dance the concept? Can we rhyme the concept? Can we emotionally express the concept? Can we see they concept as someone who will not talk to us? How do we get them to speak or communicate? When we can answer these questions, we then know a way to feel the concepts we are teaching. That is now my goal. It won’t be easy but at least I have an idea of where I need to go.

Dreams and teaching

Does American Education Have a Soul?

I am a high school mathematics teacher in the state of Georgia. I have taught in Virginia, California and, now, Georgia. I have taught since 2000 and have a total of 13 years teaching in the classroom. During this time, and during my student teaching, I sometimes wonder if administrators and licensing agencies really know what they are doing or, at least, know the implications of there policies and actions. Some of my experiences of the past few weeks have settled that question for me. However, I feel it is better to give you the facts, and let you decide for yourself, rather than preach my views.

It all started in early September. This is when I defended my essays for my dissertation. If you don’t know, this is when I defend what I have learned as a graduate student and my committee decides whether I am ready to do research for my PhD. The results of this were very good for me. All the professors agreed that I had passed this portion of my education. Not only that but they strongly suggest that I write a book on teaching when I was done with the dissertation. This experience made very excited about what I had accomplished. When it was over, I realized that the time had come to upgrade my teaching license.

In Georgia, teaching licenses are at seven levels, according to the teacher’s level of education. I am currently at level 5 for earning a masters’ degree. As a result of the essay defense, I was termed ABD (All But Dissertation). ABD is a level 6 certification. At my school district, this meant the teacher’s annual salary increases by $6000. So I applied to the state of Georgia for this certification. When they received electronically, their website said that I would have to wait awhile because they were backed up with applications. I thought, “That’s cool; they apply the certification to the raise retroactively so I’ll be patient and wait.”

So I waited, checking my status every few days. Finally, after about five weeks, I received a letter from their office. I thought it was a letter telling me that my license was upgraded. How wrong I was!! (Silly me!!) It was a letter stating that I was ineligible for a raise because my university was rated as “Carnegie High or Very High Research University.” I was very upset. I wanted to…well, I am not sure what I wanted to do with them but I knew my thoughts were not pretty. I ended up writing an email to their representatives that basically told them that their decision was not good for education and was very short-sighted. I then told them it was no wonder good teachers leave the profession every year.

I was upset so I decided to move forward. So I asked this representative whether this applied to earning a PhD. He said that it did. (A PhD is worth another $6000 of annual salary.)  I was at a loss about what to do. Graduate school is very expensive and what’s the point if I don’t get my raises? How can I justify attending and earning PhD? Then my Jungian mind kicked in; What if this meant that my life’s purpose was not to teach high school mathematics? Maybe I should be doing research. Maybe I should work on getting my papers published. Maybe I should work on teaching college psychology. But how do I make that decision?

With some prodding from a mentor, I decided to ask professors at my university. My university is Saybrook University in California. I chose this school because it has the reputation as one of the best universities in the world to study Jungian psychology. During my time at this university, I have interacted with the best professors I have ever met. Several of them have told me that I am doing “important work” and that I need to take it to its end. So, in this situation, I felt that these people were the best place to get advice for my dilemma. So I emailed them.

The consensus of these professors was that I should transfer to a Georgia university that would be recognized by the state licensing board. They suggested another humanistic university, West Georgia University. The y even gave me a couple contact persons in their psychology department. With this information in hand, I responded with the state licensing board and asked them, “If I get a degree from West Georgia University, will my license be upgraded to a level 7?” They responded by saying that yes, on the condition I pass the state test to teach “Behavioral Science.” Therefore, this is what they said to me, if you read between the lines,; “Your psychology is only valuable to teaching if and only if you are teaching psychology.” To me, that proves to me that they really don’t understand what happens in a high school classroom. They believe the one or two psychology courses that student teacher takes is enough to handle what happens in a high school classroom. (Have they ever heard of teen suicide? Or how about the number of fistfights in a high school?  I could go on but I’ll save my breath.)

So what to do? I considered the transfer. I contacted the head of psychology at West Georgia. I asked if it could happen. Meanwhile, I talked with my mentor of seven years. He told me how this could delay my graduation by about a year and a half. He also asked me the most important question; “Are you doing this for the money?” I answered with an immediate “No!” At this point, my decision was clear; I would finish my degree at Saybrook and just see where it takes me. If it was all about the money, I would go to a more lucrative job that pays me for my math degree from a major university. It’s not about the money; it’s about having a job I love very much, teaching kids that I love very much.

So then I turned back to my professors. I emailed them, directing them back to my original question; “Am I in the right position to lead my crusade to better American education?” Their answer was beautiful and perfect; “I am praying and meditating on your issue. “My thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this process.  I encourage you to do as you describe: consider all the ways you can do your work and do your own inner work and wait for the answer to emerge.    I am sure that the universe’s life force has a way for you to make the contribution you so desire.  The important thing is to be patient and open so that you see and follow your path.  In this changing world there are many ways to make a difference!” How can you argue with that! Therefore, on with Saybrook, whether Georgia recognizes or not!

 

Thanks for all support and guidance; Peter Burmeister, Bob Schmitt, Ruth Richards and Stanley Krippner….and my wife, Donna Hayes. You all have my life so much better through guidance.

Does American Education Have a Soul?