The Iowa Caucus in Our Classroom

I find it amazing that Iowa plays a role in nominating the president of the United States. Like it or not, it is part of our crazy political history here in the United States. (Winners in Iowa Caucuses often go on to become the nation’s nominee. In the last 20 years only Bill Clinton in ’92 and John McCain in ’08 did not win in their respective Iowa Caucuses.)

Today in history class we had our own Republican caucus. Just one person was excited about that. From others were heard things like:

“Why do I care about the nominees? I’m not old enough to vote.”
“I don’t want to vote for any of them because they have too many commercials on TV!”
“That’s right! I am ready to shoot my television!”
“I’ll vote for Perry because he’s a platypus.”

(If that last one is an inside joke, I missed it.)

Because some of them didn’t know much, the first thing they did was research.

They used two resources, each candidate’s home page and ABC’s Republican Presidential Candidates Guidebook.

Next, they gathered in each part of the room representing their top candidate.

Then, they gave eloquent speeches to try to convince others to join them in supporting their candidate.

“We need someone young.”
“Well, Ronald Reagan was older when he was elected.”
“He would pull our troops out of the wars and not be so quick to start wars with other countries.”
“He has a lot of campaign debt. Can’t he raise support?”
“I want to vote for her because I want a woman in the White House and she is against abortion.”
“Most candidates in the GOP are against abortion, but you also need to consider ____________.”
“What’s the GOP?”

(Nice debates, mostly coherent, happened around certain issues that will remain vague here.)

Just one was convinced to change loyalty for her candidate.

And the voting went for Rick Santorum.

All-in-all, I was very pleased with the depth of discussion by the end of the period. I assigned them homework — watch the news tonight and/or go to the Caucus — students and observers are welcome.

It’s hard to believe that this same group of eighth grade students will be invited to participate in the official 2016 Iowa Caucus, helping to choose the candidates who will run for the president of the United States. (Teachers, we have work to do!)

Interesting (and Perhaps Slightly Related) Resources

“Are the Republican Candidates all Crazy?”
“Observations From 20 Years of Iowa Life” by Stephen Bloom
“Stephen Bloom ‘Does Not Speak for the University'”
“Iowa Nice”

Class of 2011 KSYB Teacher Challenge Commencement

I like that we call graduation “commencement” because commencement literally means beginning. As we graduate from the “30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging” teacher challenge, I realize it is really the beginning. It is the beginning for all of us new (or freshly spiffed up) bloggers. An interview with my blog started this challenge, so I thought I would end the challenge with a final interview. But before my blog comes out, I wanted to show a word cloud of my blog over the past month. I am delighted with the big ideas and topics included.

Teacher Challenge Blog Posts in a Wordle
Teacher Challenge Blog Posts in a Wordle

Well, Dare to Care Blog, why do you need readers?
Mrs. Krebs and all the fine educators who have been in this blogging challenge learned they have joined a conversation. They believe that they really do have something to offer in their listening to others and in their sharing of their own voices. According to my ClustrMap, in her first eleven months of blogging, she had about 450 visitors. In one month, as she participated in this awesome 30-day professional development program at Edublogs, she had 300+ visitors. From little over 1 visitor per day to 10 per day! Of course, we all know how that happened. Neither she nor I did anything new or exciting. There were no prizes, no gimmicks, her writing skills didn’t improve, nor did she have incredible new insights. It wasn’t the fancy widgets she put on my sidebar or the categories and tags she cleaned up. The only thing that really changed was she joined a community of educators willing to help each other by listening and sharing. It was transformational. Mrs. Krebs and I, her trusty blog, thank all of you!

How can we stay networked? How can the conversations continue?
I believe it will be more difficult without the regular prodding of Sue Waters, Ronnie Burt, Sue Wyatt, and Anne Mirtschin. However, it will be possible, if educators do a few things.

First, join Twitter, if you haven’t already. Follow the four educational leaders above and @mrsdkrebs. Send out tweets when you post a new blog entry. Follow educational leaders and read their blogs.

Second, dare to share. (Just a little play on my name there!) Write posts about incredible lesson plans, questions one has, cool new web 2.0 apps, genius student work, and any other professional and personal reflections. And write them regularly!

Finally, because there won’t be the handy “Posts of the Week” links to visit each others’ blogs, you’ll need to be proactive in going out to read others’ blogs. Have you found some favorite bloggers already? Add them to your reader or subscribe by email. Or add them to your blogroll and visit them regularly.

Why has this challenge been important to you and your blog?
My writer, Mrs. Krebs, asked me to yield to her on this question, so she’s taking over.

It’s an exciting time in education. According to Tony Wagner, American education is due for a major renovation. It’s happened just once before. Over 125 years ago, our school system was reinvented. It went from a one-room school house model to an assembly-line school system, the same factory model we still have today. American education doesn’t just need a reform, it needs a re-invention. I know it’s true. Students think education is irrelevant to their lives. They don’t believe the stale promise, if you work hard and get good grades, you’ll get a good job. I don’t want to waste any of my valuable time teaching in a way that is irrelevant. I want to be in on the conversation that is reinventing education. I don’t have grand ideas, but I do believe I can be part of the discourse. I am eager to listen and share and reflect. My blog has become a part of that!

Check out Iowa Future and Tony Wagner’s motivating talk: