So You Want to Re-Open Schools?

For all those people out there pushing for schools to re-open-

Since you support education so much, I expect:

1) nothing less than your full, vocal support for public education (increased funding, smaller class sizes, better pay for staff, collective bargaining rights, no standardized tests, etc.);

2) an increased effort on your part to support your child’s learning and be involved with their school (volunteer in the classroom or field trips, fundraisers, family nights, etc.);

3) more people to get their teaching licenses (we have sub shortages, and with smaller class sizes we need more teachers);

4) letters, emails, and phone calls to elected officials at levels supporting an increase in public spending on services such as public transportation, childcare, and family and medical leave; legislation to end child poverty (around 20% in the US); and legislation to end food insecurity (over 11 million children in the US struggle with hunger).


A public high school teacher

You’ll Be Back: The Trump Version

Like many people, I saw the musical, Hamilton, for the first time on July 3, and like many people, I was blown away by how amazing it is.

Since then, President Trump, Betsy DeVos, and other administration officials have commented that schools need to re-open in the fall.  Trump went so far as to say he would take away funding from schools if they don’t re-open.  Having taught high school social studies for eighteen years, I don’t take too kindly to people threatening educators and/or leaving educators out of the conversation, especially when it comes to something as serious as re-opening schools during a pandemic.

With that in mind, I re-wrote “You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton, but instead of King George III singing to his colonists, it’s now Trump singing to teachers.  Maybe if I get up the courage I’ll record myself singing it, although it won’t nearly be as awesome as Jonathan Groff.

Thanks for reading.

You’ll Be Back

You say
That teaching and dying’s not a price that you’re willing to pay
You teach
Which isn’t so hard anybody can do it even me
Why so mad?
You say you love kids so you should want to see them today
Now you’re making me mad
Quit being so selfish and listen to me I’m the best

You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
No more teaching classes virtually
You’ll be back, with your books
So don’t give me any dirty looks
I will tweet in all caps
That the teachers are the ones who have snapped
If your cause gets too large
I will cut off all your funding just to prove that I’m the man in charge

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da

Other countries have opened and they’re doing just fine
It seems like all you do now is complain and whine
So get back in your classroom
With no supplies in the classroom
A snotty, sneezy classroom
A loud and crowded classroom
Get in there, stay in there, stay in there, stay in there, stay in there

You’ll be back like before
I will bring us all law and order
Take your temps, wash your hands
And just follow all of my commands
I am right, you are wrong
This is something that you can’t prolong
If your cause gets too large
I will send the National Guard in just to prove that I’m in charge

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat-

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da da da da
Dat dat da ya da!


Top 10 Eurovision Songs from the 2010’s

Hello, Europe! This is Wisconsin calling!

Every year since the 2009-2010 school year, I’ve shown my students Eurovision.  It occurs about 3-4 weeks before we get out for the year, so it’s a nice break before the last, crazy month.  I begin by explaining the basic rules and format and then tell them we’re going to watch all the year’s entries and vote on a collective top ten.  Some of the students really get into it and try to watch the finals (or at least find out the results), coming in on Monday asking what I thought, sometimes with a “can you believe country x won?”  My own children enjoy Eurovision, and we even have a playlist of our favorites, some of which are before 2010.

Now that I’m in the 11th year doing this, I thought I would try to come up with a top 10 from the 2010’s (2010-2019).  That, and we need a little fun and light hearted debate due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent isolation.

1 Point: “Lights and Shadows” by OG3NE (The Netherlands, 2017)

This one takes me back to 9th grade because it reminds me of Wilson Phillips.  Plus, it has little bit of edge to it towards the end.

2 Points: “Playing with Fire” by Ovi and Paula Seling  (Romania, 2010)

Dueling pianos? Yes, please.  If that’s not enough, Paula Seling also hits some seriously high notes.

3 Points: “Tomorrow” by Gianluca Bezzina (Malta, 2013)

This is just a nice, feel-good, love song.  It’s that simple.

4 Points: “What’s the Pressure” by Laura Tesoro (Belgium, 2016)

Love the funk aspect.  If you’re looking for a song that makes you want to dance, this is it.

5 Points: “Eastern European Funk” by InCulto (Lithuania, 2010)

Come for the kazoos, stay for the message about Eastern Europeans in the EU.  Another one that gets you moving to the music.

6 Points: “In a Moment Like This” by Chanée and N’Evergreen (Denmark, 2010)

There’s something about the chorus that feels triumphant.  Spoiler alert: It also has an epic key change.

7 Points: “Alcohol is Free” by Koza Mostra and Agathon Iakovidis (Greece, 2013)

Combines two of my favorite genres- rock and ska.

8 Points: “We Could be the Same” by maNga (Turkey, 2010)

Reminds me a little bit of Linkin Park.  Always nice to have a good rock song in the contest.

10 Points: “Coming Home” by Sjonni’s Friends (Iceland, 2011)

The story behind the band coming together is heartbreaking, but this is one those songs with great lyrics, where you want to sing along.

12 Points: “Never Forget” by Greta Salóme and Jónsi (Iceland, 2012)

This is just an epic-sounding song.  My daughter and I love to sing along to this in the car.  You can also watch it in the original Icelandic.

So, what do you think?  Do you have any favorites that didn’t make the cut?

Thanks for reading.

I’m Back

It’s been a while since my last post; almost six months.  One would think given my progressive/social democratic views that a Trump presidency would give me plenty of material on which I could write and that I should have a lot more posts.  The bottom line is that I’ve been busy.  I felt that while writing was a good way for me to express my ideas, actually doing some work on issues that meant a lot to me might be a better use of my time.  That’s not to say writing isn’t useful or worthwhile- I just wanted to take a break and actually do something about the problems we face in this country.

So what have I been up to?

Last year my students and I started VAHSAid, a charity thinking globally, but acting locally, by helping those affected by poverty in Dane County and Wisconsin.  We did a lot of great work helping Porchlight and the United Way of Dane County, as well as the UNHCR.  Building off that success, we wanted to do even more this year.  The past few months we’ve been working tirelessly setting up two events and looking into starting a food pantry at the school at which I teach.

Our first event is the 1st Annual Camp Out to Stamp Out Child Poverty and Food Insecurity.  On May 20-21, we’ll be camping out in the parking lot of Miller’s in Verona, to raise awareness of child poverty and food insecurity in Dane County and Wisconsin. We’ll be taking food donations to give to Badger Prairie Needs Network and monetary donations to help the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.   We’ll have tables set up to talk to people about those issues, as well as a table to learn about the Sustainable Development Goals and a table for children’s activities.  

Our second event is the 1st Annual VAHSAid Read-A-Thon at the Verona Public Library on August 12.  In addition to reading books and children’s activities, we’ll be collecting school supplies for students in our district who need help.

As for the food pantry, you’ll have to stay tuned for that.

Finally, I’ve also been busy planning a trip to Brussels for students to learn about the EU and transatlantic relations.  Based on the amount of work and coordination that has taken, I think it’s safe to say I will never go into event planning as a career.  I am however, very excited about the trip because I’ve put together, what I think, will be a truly memorable experience for the students.

So, now you know why I’ve been silent for the past six months.  Hopefully, now that the events and my trip are pretty much settled, I’ll have more time to write in support of progressive/social democratic ideas.

Thanks for reading.

Ideas for a Study Trip to London and Brussels

I love the idea of study trips for students.  They are great opportunities to make the curriculum more real, and they can make lifetime memories.  Our school offers a number of trips through the foreign languages department (I actually get to chaperone the German trip), but I’ve always wanted to offer a study trip for one of my courses.  As such, I’m thinking of offering a trip to London and Brussels to study British politics and the EU.

Why those topics?
One of the courses I teach is AP Comparative Government & Politics.  It’s probably my favorite course to teach because we focus on six countries (China, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and the UK), and the EU is part of the curriculum.

On top of that, I’ve been to Brussels before (once as part of a trip sponsored by the Delegation of the EU to the US, and another time for a seminar hosted by the German Marshall Fund).  Plus, in the past five years I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve been fortunate to have made a number of connections with people who work in EU institutions or write extensively about the EU.

Here are my learning objectives for London, followed by ideas to accomplish them:

  1. Learn about the parliamentary system and the functions of the House of Commons and the House of Lords- Tour Parliament (talk w/ MP’s?)
  2. Learn about the major political parties (Conservatives, Labour, LibDems, UKIP, SNP, etc.)- Meet with members of political parties (tour HQ?)
  3. Learn about the election process- Meet with somebody from the Electoral Commission
  4. Learn about the role of the media- Tour BBC and The Guardian, and maybe talk with journalists
  5. Learn about unions- Meet with representatives of the Trade Unions Congress
  6. Learn about the NHS- Meet with representatives
  7. Learn about UK foreign policy- Tour the Foreign Office and talk about US-UK relations and Brexit

Here are my learning objectives for Brussels, followed by ideas to accomplish them:

  1. Learn about the EU institutions- Tour and talk with representatives of the European Parliament, European Council, Council of the EU, European Commission
  2. Learn about the role of the media- Tour PoliticoEurope and viEUws and talk with journalists
  3. Learn about transatlantic relations- Meet with representatives from the US Mission to the EU and the US Mission to NATO

As it stands, the students will pay for the entire trip, but I wonder if there are any grants for such opportunities, especially ones that promote transatlantic relations.

What I Would Like from Readers
If you have ideas about how to make those objectives happen- people to talk to, places to see, funding, etc.- please leave a comment below.  Also, if you happen to work in one of the places I mentioned, or you know somebody who does, please leave me a comment with the best way to contact you.  Finally, one of the factors I have to consider is that some places want a certain of ratio of students to chaperones, so if you’re aware of anything like that, please let me know as well.

Ideally, I would love for this trip to occur every other summer; so, if I can make this first one a success, I should be able to continue offering it.

**UPDATE: As I’ve been doing research and talking with all of the people who have made suggestions/offers on Twitter, I’m thinking it might be easier for me to make the first trip a Brussels-only trip.  It will be easier for me to plan and get my feet wet in the world of study trips.  I will, however, still definitely welcome suggestions for London for future trips.

Thanks for reading.