Dear Teachers: The Church of Scientology is one click away from your students

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My laptop screen that shows the Youth for Human Rights curriculum sign-up form.

Be careful: the church’s Youth for Human Rights lessons are now available online.

 

A lot can happen in two years.

Two years ago, I wrote on Medium.com about a variety of educational materials offered by Youth for Human Rights International, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based human rights advocacy group. Back then, after doing some quick online research, I discovered that Youth for Human Rights International is actually a front organization of the Church of Scientology.

Note: In this story, I have intentionally omitted links to websites owned by the Church of Scientology or its front organization; however, here’s the link to the article I wrote two years ago: Dear Parents: Scientology Wants to Get Inside Your Child’s Classroom

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Read this story on Medium.com here.

Recently, I checked back on the Youth for Human Rights website to see if it was still there, and if so, I wondered if it still offered the same materials and other propaganda extolling the virtues of the organization and its questionable humanitarian work.

What did I find?

A full online course. An app. A teacher dashboard so teachers can monitor student progress in the course.

Instead of sending away for the printed materials I wrote about two years ago, teachers can now instantly open an account, register as a teacher, and enroll their students to deliver human rights content from the Church of Scientology.

But don’t.

And don’t order the printed materials either.

Despite lots of United Nations name-dropping, the Church of Scientology has no business proclaiming itself as a human rights leader.

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United Nations, New York City | Photo: Pixabay

After all, there are several human rights that the Church of Scientology policies violate, which discredit its claim of being a leader in the field. I’m not an expert on the Church of Scientology, but if one reads even a moderate amount on this so-called religion, you’ll discover many questionable, unethical activities.

For now, here are three that I’m aware of: 1) the cult’s Rehabilitation Project Force, a forced-labor camp where cult followers are imprisoned to perform hard labor to compensate for violations they have allegedly committed; 2) the cult’s disconnection policy, which requires followers to separate themselves from friends and family members who criticize the Church of Scientology, and 3) the documented charges of physical violence and assault by David Miscavige, the church’s “ecclesiastical leader,” and other higher-ups.

Teachers beware: The Church of Scientology doesn’t make it obvious that it’s the force behind Youth for Human Rights International. Visit the YHRI website and you’ll find no connection to Scientology; however, visit Scientology.org and you’ll find numerous mentions of YHRI, its partner front United for Human Rights, and a heavy dose of grandiose language extolling the progress being made globally to advance human rights.

To be honest, human rights violations or not, when a cult is making inroads into American schools – even to promote an innocuous and noble cause – it’s unacceptable and dangerous.

In addition, providing a way for students to sign up for a Church of Scientology online human rights course is even more disturbing.

Despite negative publicity accrued over a few seasons of Scientology and The Aftermath, the Church of Scientology and its myriad front organizations are still operating.

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The Church of Scientology’s attempts – including its new online course – to provide a curriculum to schools and to sign up students online is underhanded and dishonest… not qualities I would expect from an organization supposedly dedicated to the advancement of human rights around the world.


I keep tabs on the Church of Scientology and how it attempts to connect with classrooms. Thanks for reading again this week. And please let me know via email (marilynyung@gmail.com) if you are ever contacted by the Church of Scientology or its front organizations. I still receive emails from their offices regularly regarding their human rights curriculum.

 

 

A Christmas Memo: Madeline, Me, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame

This Christmas, for the first time in more than 200 years, Christmas Mass will not be held at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Since last April’s fire, services at the famous cathedral have been held at the Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois, a church near the Louvre. This week, I’ve decided to reblog a post I wrote last spring; this post originally appeared on my travel site, http://www.marilynyung.wordpress.com.

I wrote the post below the week after the cathedral fire last spring; it pays tribute to the children’s book, Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans. By the way, I still have not located the copy of the book mentioned in the post. Darn.

Thanks for reading! If you’re a Madeline fan, please leave a comment!

Marilyn Yung

The classic children’s book caused me to feel and understand the tragedy of the fire when I wouldn’t have otherwise

Bedtime_story_-_MadelinePhoto: Ldorfman; Ldorfman [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D I don’t possess any personal connection to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. I’ve never even been to the City of Light. I don’t have a selfie to post or a brochure or keychain from the grand gothic masterpiece that was nearly destroyed by fire last week.

I do, however, have a copy of Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, the classic 1939 children’s book, somewhere in our house.

At least, the book supposed to be here. I vaguely remember stowing it away in a box several years back in the attic for safe-keeping with other beloved and well-worn children’s books my daughter and son read with me in recliners and on couches some twenty years ago.

1_BAHbc0E3F_FWOxEYeknDTAPhoto: Unsplash

It was a sweet…

View original post 415 more words

Four-day weeks are the worst… said no teacher ever

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Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

What a four-day school week means to me

Last summer, my husband and I moved to a new city. Since we had learned about our upcoming move way back in January, I began searching for a new position about a month later. The local school district in our new hometown didn’t have any positions available. As a result, I decided to explore the many small rural school districts in the surrounding area.

One of the very first openings I noticed was at a school district about forty minutes away from our new home. I noticed the listing and checked out the school’s website. It looked like a promising possibility, but the forty-minute commute gave me pause. Still, I made a mental note to keep it in mind as I continued my search.

A couple more openings soon showed up in other schools. One was about thirty minutes away. Another was a tempting fifteen minutes away. Of course, a few more with forty-minute commutes similar to that first listing popped up in my search results as well.

I continued to prepare my resumé, samples of student work, and other materials that I knew I’d need when I would eventually start interviewing. And just about everyday, I logged on the job search website provided by my state’s department of education and looked for openings in the area.

One day about two weeks later, the listing at that first school I noticed was flagged as being recently revised. Hmmm… I wonder what’s changed, I thought.

I clicked the listing. A significant change had been made: the district’s school board had, a few days earlier, approved a four-day week for the 2019-2020 school year.

The four-day week is a relatively new concept that more than 500 districts across the country are exploring. Small schools, especially those in rural areas, can reduce operating costs and, in lieu of higher salaries, better attract and retain teachers by offering a shorter work week instead.

Well, that definitely changes things, I thought.

Without looking further on the site, I quickly assembled a resumé and emailed it to the school’s principal. Within a week, I had an interview scheduled. About an hour after my interview, I received an offer, which I accepted the next morning.

That four-day week stopped my search cold. Yes, it would mean school days that run about thirty minutes longer, but it would also mean one fewer day of making that forty-minute drive each way, which was the main drawback for me since I was transferring from another rural district with a comparable salary schedule. And now, with the prospect of a four-day week, saving time and gas were just the beginning.

After all, what teacher doesn’t fantasize about what an entire extra day each week would mean for their life? 

  • That extra day means I can schedule a doctor or dental appointment without taking time off from work (and, by the way, costing the school the wages for a sub).
  • It means I can do my grocery shopping on a quiet Monday morning instead of a hectic Saturday afternoon when everyone else is roaming the aisles, too.
  • It means I can hang around the house and redo that cabinet I’ve been needing to paint, but just haven’t found the three or four solid hour it requires.
  • It means I can burn a pile of leaves if I feel like it.
  • Or bake a loaf of bread.
  • Or read a book.
  • Or write a blog post.
  • Or exercise.
  • Or volunteer.
  • Or yes, even do some grading and lesson planning. (Yeah, it happens.)

And think about what an extra day means to younger teachers with small children. That’s one fewer day of childcare to pay for and one more precious day to spend with their infant or preschooler. As a mother (my kids are grown now), that extra day would have meant the world to me.

And yes, logistically, I understand how difficult it might be to schedule childcare on a four-day calendar. However, after-school clubs and other community programs have been known to revise their hours and services to accommodate the change.

And mind you, I don’t have every Monday off at my new school. Of about forty Mondays in the school year, twenty-two are actual “no school” days where both students and teachers stay home. On the remaining sixteen Mondays, only teachers attend school to plan and take part in professional development (PD) activities, such as first aid workshops, a suicide prevention session, and technology training.

Fortunately, my district doesn’t pack these Mondays with PD sessions; I usually have four to five hours of time to spend in my classroom preparing for the weeks ahead. I accomplish so much on those days completing work that I would normally just take home in a bag anyway.

I love the four-day week my new school district voted to adopt last spring. The district plans to evaluate  the change next semester to learn how it’s working for students, parents, and school personnel. Everyone’s needs must be considered, for sure, but we must remember that educating students must remain the number one priority.

For me, however, the four-day week means my weekends are long, luxurious, and wonderfully rejuvenating. Yes, I could earn more in a larger, better resourced suburban district closer to my home, but my smaller paycheck is more than offset by that one glorious extra day.


Thanks for reading! Have you heard of any districts in your area considering the switch to a four-day week? What are your thoughts? Let me know with a comment. And don’t forget to become a follower for more ELA posts. Here’s a link to a recent post

 

 

My “Article of the Week” rubric for middle and high school

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Plus rubrics you can tweak  to fit your classroom

Last February, I wrote this post about what I consider to be my most effective writing assignment: Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week (AOW).

I still use this assignment on a weekly basis, but I’ve added narrative writing to the mix by assigning what I call Essays of the Week (EOWs) every other week. These narrative assignments use prompts provided by The New York Times Learning Network. I select a grouping of prompts from the list and let students choose one to respond to.

Here are some photos of the rubric portions of my AOWs and EOWs. Feel free to comment, ask a question, or share this post.

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This is the rubric I made for the first AOW of the school year.
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This AOW rubric contains less explicit instructions for citing of the article. I use this rubric on AOWs so students have a little more leeway with how they set up, cite, and interpret their quotations from the article. Some students work best with this format; some need more structure. 

 

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This EOW rubric specifically asks students to begin their essays with dialogue. It also asks students to ground their dialogue with narration. On this same day, we also discussed dialogue punctuation and how to narrate dialogue with detail and elaboration about the characters who are speaking.

 

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This EOW rubric specifically asks students to use  a semicolon in their writing. On the day this was assigned, we also watched this video by Shmoop about how to use semicolons. 
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This EOW rubric specifically asks students to use an em dash in their writing. On the day this was assigned, we also watched this video by  Shmoop about how to use an em dash.

 

I usually assign a new AOW or EOW on the first day of the week with a hard copy due one week later. AOWs usually take a little more time to go over. For example, after a bell-ringer activity and a mini-lesson that addresses a specific skill required in the rubric (such as using semicolons), these take the better part of the class period when we complete these steps:

  • introducing the assignment
  • going over the rubric and its specific requirements
  • discussing the writing prompt
  • reading the article aloud
  • watching any related video on the news story

 

EOWs don’t take as much class time, since there’s no article to read. We might go through each prompt choice, however, and do some discussion to help students come up with writing ideas.

Let me know how these rubrics work for you.

My adaptation of Kelly Gallagher’s AOW is a mainstay in my teaching. The AOWs build nonfiction reading skills, improve writing stamina, and increase students’ prior knowledge of the world around them. My EOW simply adds variety to our routine while giving them opportunities to write narratives.



Thanks for reading again this week! I appreciate any and all comments. In fact, this post was created in response to a comment posted just last week about this article.

Student writers learn their power at Missouri State

The Write Now! High School Writing Conference at Missouri State University

Shaun Tomson explains his metaphorical “I Will” statement, “I will always paddle back out.”

Here are some quick photos of the high school writing conference hosted by the Missouri State Center for Writing in College, Career and Community. I took these just a few minutes ago during the 2019 Opening Session. World champion South African surfer Shaun Tomson spoke about the power of “I Will” statements, part of his Surfer’s Code, an empowering personal creed that he challenged each student in attendance to write and apply to their own lives.

A student in the audience shouts out his “I Will” code.

Near the end of the session, Tomson asked students to share their “I Will” statements via a texting poll and from their seats in the auditorium inside Plaster Student Union.

I attended the conference with these four fantastic students from my school. They each attended two different creative writing sessions. I am very proud of these girls for taking a chance and attending this conference to grow their writing skills.

I’ll be writing another post about this conference and the specific sessions offered in a future post. I’ll also write about getting to see some former students who met me for a quick photo and catch-up session in the aisle.

In the meantime, the conference is actually just getting started. After lunch, students will attend another session, and then we’ll head back home.


Thanks for reading! Become a follower for more teaching resources and reflection.

Don’t give up on improving your students’ vocabulary skills

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Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Stick with your plan; give your lessons time to work

 

I recently designed some daily bell-ringer activities to teach my students some new vocabulary words. To create these on-going brief lessons, I continue to use Vocab Gal’s “Power Words of the Week” from Sadlier’s ELA Blog, and “Vocabulary Words of the Day” from Prestwick House.

One way teachers can build a word-rich environment in the classroom is by spotlighting a weekly vocabulary word. Use my vocabulary Power Word of the Week to ensure vocabulary instruction occurs daily in your classroom!
This is an example of the Vocab Gal’s Power Word of the Week slides. I copy each image into a PowerPoint and leave it on the SMART Board while we do the various activities explained in this post.

Words we’ve recently learned include the following:

  • paragon
  • perpetuate
  • aloof
  • virtuoso
  • gossamer
  • fend
  • inimitable
  • pejorative

Read this post to learn about the specific activities we use to explore each word.

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Even though these images from Prestwick House suggest using them daily, I use the same word for a full week. I think that helps kids learn the words more effectively.

At times over the past seven to eight weeks,

I’ve wondered whether my vocab activities are becoming a little

stale. A little repetitive. Yawn-inducing. 

And then over the weekend, as I reviewed second drafts of writing projects that students had turned in during writer’s workshop last week, I noticed two students had used the word “inimitable.” Do you know (of course, you do!) how gratifying it was to see my students using words they had recently acquired as a result of my “repetitive” vocabulary lessons?

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A student used the word inimitable in her Treasured Object poem.

I guess repetition has its merits, after all.

It’s easy to doubt myself. I do it a lot. My self-doubt has, at times, caused me to alter my teaching when I’ve suspected it wasn’t working. My self-doubt has, at times, even caused me to discontinue a particular unit or strategy.

And to be honest, I had thought about pushing the pause button on these vocabulary lessons. However, when I read the word “inimitable” in my students’ drafts, I changed my mind.

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Another student used the word inimitable in her personal essay.

Exposing kids to new words during a four-day week’s worth of bell-ringer activities seems to be taking hold. When kids acquire new words and then use them to express themselves in poetry or a personal essay, that’s all the confirmation I need to stick with my plan. These two students have given me enough incentive to stay with these vocab lessons and not alter or discontinue them just yet.

Are you like me in this regard? Do you question whether your vocab instruction is helping your students? Don’t assume it’s not working. Continue to expose your students to new words that will give them the precision they need to fully express their ideas in writing. Don’t give up on your vocabulary instruction. Keep with it. Persevere.



This vocabulary pep talk has been brought to you by me. Seriously, vocabulary gets short shrift; kids need to acquire an extensive vocabulary as they transition to high school and college or the workplace. What are your tried-and-true vocabulary lesson ideas? Feel free to share and then follow my blog for more reflection!

The struggle is real: top grammar issues my students struggle with

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Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

Now I know exactly what they each need to focus on

Last week, I gave each student a sticky note and asked each of my students to write their  top one or two grammar or conventions issues they struggle with on a regular basis.

I suggested, “Y’know… those things that you always have to look up on Google or wherever… those things that you continue to stumble with.” 

As for me, I struggle with the difference between lay and lie. It always makes me stop to Google up Grammar Girl or some other such website. For whatever reason, I just have to look it up every time. I also struggle sometimes with commas between certain coordinate adjectives.

Anyway, I wanted my students to tell me what they struggle with in particular. Knowing their problem areas will help me plan mini-lessons over the next few months.

Without further ado, here are the top grammar issues my students struggle with followed by the number of students who reported the particular item listed:

  • Semicolons (18)
  • Run-on sentences (6)
  • Commas in dialogue (4)
  • Hyphenated words (4)
  • Commas inside or outside of quotation marks  (3)
  • Commas in a series (The Oxford comma)  (3)
  • Than vs. Then (2)
  • There/They’re/Their (2)
  • John and me versus John and I (Subject vs. object pronouns); (2)
  • Where vs. were (2)
  • When to use single quotation marks (1)
  • Capitalizing Dad vs. my dad (1)
  • Affect vs. effect (1)
  • To/Too/Two (1)
  • Apostrophes in possessive case (1)
  • When to paragraph (1)
  • Semicolons vs. colons (1)
  • Commas before who or which (1)
  • Parenthetical citations in MLA style (1)

When I have only one student struggling with, say, run-on sentences, I’ll be able to help them individually during one-on-one conferencing time when we do Writer’s Workshop. For other issues that a few or several students mentioned, I can plan to address those in mini-lessons.

And here’s another thing: some students may not even know they are struggling with a particular issue. For example, I know that more than six students struggle with run-on sentences. I see this issue all the time in many students’ drafts. So, as useful as this list is, I also possess my own knowledge about my students’ problem areas… whether they know about those problem areas or not.

Still, I’m glad I have this list. My copy contains the problem area(s) next to each student’s name. I can reference it continually to recall who needs to work on what. To make sure I remember to teach each of these issues, I’ve decided to enter them into my plan for future class periods in my lesson plan calendar on Planbook.

Eventually, my idea is to know without a doubt that I’ve addressed each student’s particular grammar problems. That will be a good feeling.


Thanks for reading again this week! How do you keep track of exactly what each student needs special help with? Become a follower of this site to receive emails when I publish a new post. Also, feel free to share your comments and ELA teaching experiences.