Sunday, October 25, 2009

Back to teaching students

This morning I had the privilege to watch the YouTube video What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali as well as other videos recorded of him. I also visited his website. I know that there are times when each of us need to remember why we decided to become a teacher. We go through different phases being excited, challenged, motivated, thrilled, frustrated, angry, sad- all of the emotions of life.

The weeks of school have gone by in a flash so far. A full quarter is almost over. Mostly I have been getting kids ready to take tests or proctoring in the computer lab. I have not had the privilege of teaching much but I am ready to roll. As the transition of the seasons is upon us my wish for you is for your heart and soul continue to be the driving force in your teaching of students.

Monday, October 12, 2009


This morning was my first opportunity ever to be in a court of law. This is kind of sad. I have many lawyers in my family (father, grandfather, uncles, cousins) but I never really thought about going to court. If you have never had the experience to be involved in the judicial process, it is interesting to say the least. The drama that you see on television court is just that, drama.

I was one of 60 potential jurors and did not end up getting picked to even sit in the jury box as a possible candidate. The Bailiff and Clerk of Courts came to the front of the court to thank us for our service. We all stood as the judge came into the courtroom. He also thanked us for coming and said that even though there were so many of us that we were in court for something very important and that although he knew our time was valuable, justice was important and a mistrial was not something that he wanted to have happen. The actual case was explained to us right away. It was a potential murder trial. An individual was accused of selling meth to another person who died allegedly from the drugs. The "Len Bias" law was explained to us and then the accused, attorneys, and potential witnesses were introduced. Then the proceedings actually began.

The clerk of courts had all of our names on tiny cards and these names were in a tumbling box. She picked out a total of 23 to start. The judge, district and defense attorney each took turns asking questions of the jurors. If you had a reason that you could not be impartial or able to uphold the law and find the defendant guilty then you were excused. There were probably 10 individuals that ended up being excused. Each time someone was dismissed another name was called until each of the attorneys had finished their questioning. There were a total of 13 jurors that needed to be selected, 12 sitting jurors and an alternate. The person who was the alternate would not know that they were the alternate until deliberations started. At this point the lawyers had alternating chances to decide which jurors they wanted to not have on the jury. It was interesting to watch the questioning and hear the answers of the potential jurors. The entire process was less than 4 hours. The choosing of the jury is a very serious part of a trial. I have a better understanding of this now. A mans life is going to be determined by the evidence. The jurors will have to reach a unanimous verdict. This entire trial is expected to last a week. I will be waiting to hear what the verdict will be.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Lesson in Civic Duty

In August I received a summons for jury duty for the month of October. I have never been called before. I got a big envelope in the mail that included a questionnaire and instructions. Serving on a jury in my opinion is a civic responsibility. I have however been unpleasantly surprised by how many people have given me advice about how to get out of it. Their ideas would certainly work. If I could not be impartial due to something in the past or if I had a strong prejudice about people doing this particular crime, I'd be dismissed. Certainly we don't want people on juries that don't want to be there. If I ever was needing a jury to decide my fate or those of a loved one, I would hope that a jury of sympathetic, smart and unbiased individuals would think that they had a civic duty too.

Of course there is never a great time to have a disruption of this kind in your life. I have been busily doing MAP testing with our students for the past 2 weeks. There is a testing window that closes for us this upcoming Friday. The students at one of my schools will not have seen me for 3 weeks. It is still the beginning of the school year for me since I had very few classes with them prior to starting MAP. Writing substitute plans is not something that is up there on my list of fun things to do.

I don't know whether I will actually get chosen for a jury. I have never even been to court. If I do get chosen I will be listening carefully and I am going to look on it as a new experience. We teach our students the importance of community and citizenship. At the very least it will be an interesting experience. This will be a way for me to put in action a lesson of citizenship.

Friday, October 2, 2009

One never knows

What you see depends on what you are looking for.

Sometimes rules are made to be broken.

You may never know unless you try.

There was a wonderful story I heard this morning on NPR's Story Core titled "Boy Lifts Book; Librarian Changes Boy's Life" We have, each of us every day, opportunities to look beyond the obvious and delve deeper for meaning and understanding. This is what Mrs. Grady and Mrs. Saunders did for Olly Neal. I hope that in my life that I can do for others what these intelligent and insightful "rule breakers" have done.