Thursday, September 30, 2010

I think (gasp) I have a handle on the seating and the lessons

This felling will soon pass.

I have all but 2 kids assigned seats (1 hardly ever comes and the other is AWOL). I am behind where I should be but had them listening today rather than doing cosmetology in my class.

The kid who hates me is due back tomorrow.

Overall - ok.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The difference between a teacher and an educator

(today's email) According to a news report, a certain private school in Washington was recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick, they would press their lips on the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. Every night the maintenance man would remove them, and the next day the girls would put them back. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done.

She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night (you can just imagine all the yawns from the little princesses).

To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.

Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers.. . . and then there are educators.

Ode to English Teachers who cannot read

(OK this isn't every English teacher and some of my best friends are English teachers . . . )

We have a lot going on this week and got an email a couple of days ago telling us what was happening on which day. Now, I don't know about you, but I am up to my ass in alligators and I don't remember the whole list because none of it is my responsibility.

I got an email with a long list of student names and told to release these kids for practice at 2 pm - so I send an email back "when are we to do this?"

I get an answer that it is at the stadium and which groups are involved. (that would be where and who but not when)

So, I send another email "what day are we supposed to do this" although I thought when was enough.

So then an email goes out to the school (not naming me) saying we are to do this on Friday.

Could have just answered my question.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I am more confused than I was as a first year teacher

I wrote earlier that this year's mandate is we are to take our kids from where they are and get them to experience everything at a higher level.

The administration says if you are at level 1 go to level 2.

If I look at the state tests, about 80% is level 1 and 2.

OK, not a problem. Make tests where you can pass (70-80%) at level 1 and 2 - but you don't get an A or B if you cannot answer the higher level questions. Makes sense, right?

So why does the teacher making the tests we have to use insist of 80% higher level and minimal 1s and 2s? And any discussion gives her the vapors.

I don't how to teach the kids I have to hit that target.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Understanding social media

I don't think of myself as an old fogey but there are times that I realize I probably am.

A young friend was married this weekend and today posted on her social media: "Rule of ettiquette (sic), if you are invited to a wedding and you go then you are supposed to give a gift. I always do. People are rude today. wow!!"

I wonder if she realizes that another "Rule of ettiquette" is that you don't air this piece of laundry in public where anyone could read - especially those looking for wedding pictures.

And especially the day after the wedding.

Politics, bah humbug.

What to write about (as anything beats real work)? I intended to write about the latest trend to force you into the theater (4D - which is better but still needs work and is it really worth it) but instead will write about the idiocy of Georgia politics.

I feel like these are my choices for Governor:
1) vote for a man who worked to destroy education when he was Governor before but, hey guys, I'm sorry and I will do it differently if you re-elect me. Sure. [Roy Barnes]

2) vote for a guy who is either really corrupt, really stupid - or thinks we are really stoopid. In the past three weeks we have learned: he didn't put the loan his son-in-law defaulted on and he guaranteed on his political filings because he forgot (over $2M - yeah, I can see that); the political filings were too complicated (he has been a US Representative and can't hire someone to do this?]; he is broke, his son-in-law's business went under and so he will lose his house but he will make good on the $2+ million he owes; his campaign is leasing planes from his business at ridiculous rates compared to the other candidates, but he isn't benefiting; His net worth went from about $3.5M to $5.3M between 9/13/10 and 9/24/10. [Nathan Deal]

3) vote for the third party candidate who cannot win and will throw the election to Roy Barnes.

I don't like anyone running for anything. And I see that no one will get us out of the mess Perdue, the economy, and Kathy Cox (state school superintendent) have gotten us into.

And I don't think it is any better anywhere else.

It is really sad when there is NO lesser evil.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The impotence of having your child bullied

I do not tolerate bullying. What my students don't know is that I have watched both of my children bullied. The oldest got very quiet. When we determined what was happening (in middle school) we went to the principal and (to his credit) he put all of the boys in that grade together and told them that if it happened again, they were suspended and if their buddy wasn't in school that day, it didn't matter. That if their buddy did it again, he would be suspended as well. And it stopped.

Second child came along, and the bully was the son of a teacher (smaller than my son). Mine decked hers and ended up suspended, which I understood but told my son it was the appropriate punishment because he took things in his own hands. Same middle school, different principal. When it carried over onto the bus (and video) he finally did something and it stopped.

Did my children become best buddies with their tormentors and life was all hearts and flowers? Hell no. But the bullies crawled back in their holes and left my kids alone.

So now we have the father in Florida. I am thinking there should be video of the boys harassing the girl since there is video of the father. Did he overreact - as I told my son, he can't take matters into his own hands. Should the dad have marched his complaints up the line - yes. He went to the counselor. Did he go to the principal? The Board? Here, his daughter would have an IEP and that means federal protection as well. Would I be screaming for that? You betcha.

Hope the little morons who torment a child with issues not of her choosing go to a special place in hell. At the very least, I hope they get their due.

Six Word Saturday

We're the Island of Misfit Toys.

For more Six Word Saturday participants, click here.

The more I think about it, the more I realize my school is really the Island of Misfit Toys. I wonder who I am.

I know I have put off writing a letter to an old friend, showing what I have done with my credentials. I have avoided looking for another position. I talk about going back to school and I complain about the economy.

Or is it that I know I am broken as well and working where I need to be?

I think I could do better with an organized, nurturing administration (wouldn't everyone). Maybe my students would do better with an organized nurturing teacher.

The 10% I cannot change are driving me away from the 90% who try. Why do I keep letting them win?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Doncha love it

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that the only way they THINK they know whether you are teaching to the standards is if you use clue words – like “standards”. That if you don’t say the clue words, but speak mathematically (as in the language of the standards) they have no idea if you have or not.

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that when you suggest using material from places that teach math better than we do (or at least get better results) they ask whether you have checked that “they are using the same standards”?

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that they cannot grasp that the kids do not know the basics so I can try for higher order thinking (and I do) but they cannot remember what they learned last year.

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that they think we are impressed with educratese.

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that, knowing they have already given us too much to do, they cannot spend $2 on a calendar so they can give us more than 10 minutes warning that something is due.

I love when your administration is so clueless about what you teach that they waste an hour after school is out on a pointless meeting that could have been sent as an email, for crying out loud!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Funsucker will not do her job

I gave a test today. Funsucker is a special ed teacher and there are 4 kids with small group testing in their IEP.

1) She will not take those 4 (and a few more, so as to not single them out) out without first disrupting the entire class by asking who wants to go with her. (Since she gives kids answers -and, yes, I have heard her do this - all the lazy ones want to go with her).
2) Then she disrupts my portion of the class by sending them back early.
3) She will not assist the ones with IEPs - she wants to work with the general ed kids.

Why do I need her in my room if she will not do her job?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I had a student tell me something today

I really wish she hadn't. She started talking about the Dream Act - then told me she was here illegally. She said she couldn't go to college. The way our state works is that you pay out of state tuition if you are not legal. But today's news is that certain colleges in Georgia may refuse to accept illegal immigrants. Schools like Georgia Tech, University of Georgia, and others who already turn away large numbers of legal state residents may start refusing to take those not here legally. Some of this is in response to the KSU student who has been proudly announcing she is illegal - after she was arrested for driving without a license, thus reinforcing the idea that illegals abuse ALL laws.

So, of course, there is immediately an editorial voicing the other side: that we all lose if we don't treat the children of illegals as if they were citizens. I think if some of us are held accountable for following the laws, we all should have to follow the laws, not pick and choose.

So then I read a quote from Obama's aunt: "If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen."


On a lighter note, here are series of maps calledMapping Europe by stereotypes drawn by (I think) a Bulgarian. You know, the English view of Europe, America's view of Europe, etc. Equal opportunity offense.

I really wish she hadn't shared.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What a difference a year makes

A year ago I wrote here, here, here, and here about the flooding we had that kept us out of school for a week.

Today there is a feature comparing now and then which gives an idea of how bad it was. Part of what struck me is the trailer park that is empty.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dysfunctional family, er, department

The math department in my school is really dysfunctional. I am not sure most of us respect each other. I do know that (with rare exceptions) we do not share things that would make our life easier.

I have written about asking for help and not getting it. I am absolutely positive the individual mentioned has no clue about why I haven't honored her request for "stuff" and feels (probably, since I have gone out of my way to avoid her)that I am being selfish.

Funsucker is still in 2 of my classes, still being Funsucker and I cannot get her to do what she is being paid to do.

I think we are about to lose a new teacher. He is acting completely overwhelmed with dealing with high school students. I do not have a class near him and have shared my notes from when I taught that class - but the other 5 teachers, whose rooms are right next to him, do not feel that they have to do anything to help him. I have butted in and asked each one - and they tell me "I got it on my own", "he hasn't asked for help", "I have too much on my plate this year" - and I watch this kid in the meetings. He is withdrawing, will not say anything. When I talk with him (what a concept) he is afraid he is not being an effective teacher. He worries about the discipline. He is questioning why he went into teaching in the first place.

I remember these stages. I have been offering encouragement. I just feel a sense of foreboding.

And, everytime we have a meeting SOMEONE (and it varies) comes to tell me SOMETHING ICKY about SOMEBODY ELSE. I do not want to hear it anymore. I don't care whose marriage is breaking up, who is getting too chummy with the kids (if you think it is serious TELL THE ADMINISTRATION), who is doing pushups in the class room to show "they still have it" *THAT was fun - the kids have it on YOUTUBE). Geesh! I just want to do my job - my own students are screwy enough,

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Racism - or wouldn't it be nice if the kids had a clue what that meant

A local columnist writes that we need to educate black males. I agree. I doubt she will be hit with charges of racism as she is a black, liberal, female.

But I find it rather ironic.

Earlier this week a friend (white) was visiting a classroom (not hers) where the teacher was also white and mentioned that one of the indicators that the state and federal government look at to determine whether a school has passed AYP is whether black males have passed certain tests.

This was immediately met with cries of racism.

So, it doesn't matter that black males do worse on the tests than white males, we should not segregate people by identifiable characteristics to help each group attain the same end result - we should just blindly keep on doing it the same unsuccessful way we have been going about it for years. If it helped to group people by height to determine how to teach them, I am all for it.

To be fair - these students are like my own students who are convinced that it is proof of the racism in our county that there are proportionately more whites in this county than in the state (and hence, proportionately fewer blacks). It pains me that they haven't grasped the idea of mathematical averaging and cannot understand that there are other counties in this state with proportionately more blacks than the state average. And that isn't racism either.

Part of the fall out of crying racism constantly, besides demeaning the concept, is that if a teacher corrects a student of another race for behavior that violates school policy and is inappropriate whether you are black, white or purple - and the student accuses the teacher of racism - the entire lesson (about appropriate behavior) is lost.

Six Word Saturday

I am an anarchist at heart.

For more Six Word Saturday participants, click here.

I really don't like rules - and I work in a school with too many, and some are ridiculous.

I like structure - but I hate (really truly hate) assigning seats. It seems like another ridiculous rule. It has worked so much better with assigned seats - I cannot tell you how much easier it is to teach and how much it frustrates my anarchist soul to have to ASSIGN the students a place to sit so that they can pass a required course.

I read this discussion on whose responsibility it was to maintain order earlier this week and discussed it with the problem classes - in those classes more than half thought it was the teacher's. Sigh. And that is why I must assign seats.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Assigning seats - stage 1

Went in today and quietly moved two or three good kids. Then I announced that I had NEVER had assigned seats (except for a few each year who cannot behave) but I will be assigning seats in 3 classes (out of 4) this year because they cannot behave.

As kids talked - I assigned them a different seat. I am almost where I need to be.

My worst offender is not there (yes!!) but I will have dealt with everyone else by the time is back in class.

I talked to about 4 who work but are too chatty - about my expectations and theirs.

We'll see how it goes - but it was much better today.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Assigning seats - need opinions

I have to assign seats in several classes this year. I know I am delaying the inevitable - but I really hate assigning seats. It is more work for me, etc. But what I really worry about is moving someone who is trying away from the only thing that is getting through the class - because I don't see that.

Now, it is not one or two that are bugging me - but about 1/2 the class.

Do you put the talkers/disrupters up front so that maybe they will hush and learn? Do you put the people up front who have been choosing to sit up front and work, and split up the party animals in the back - they'll still talk but they won't be with their good buddies. Maybe it'll make 'em miserable.

Or do you just go for alphabetical or some other random that splits them up?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The turnaround model

I read an article about schools who are failing AYP and going through the process to recover their good standing. Or however you want to put it.

The thing that struck me the most about the article is the emphasis on what happens to the people involved.

I warned some of my friends when I read it. And now, we are seeing the disintegration of what functionality we had. And it hasn't been a month!!

I got a call from a friend, in tears, because of what was said in a meeting as her group tried to do everything that they are supposed to do.

The people in our administration are not known for their people skills. There is no way they will do what they need to do to help the people (teachers) navigate this path. I predict massive transfers at the end of this year.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Six Word Saturday

September 11th: always in my heart.

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One of the best things my children and I ever did occurred in the wake of this tragedy. It shaped my life (and theirs) in ways that are too personal.

We have two lunatic factions trying to do legal but immoral things on this day. May our common God bring sense to their heads and love to their hearts.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Depth of Knowledge

Someone I know has been told they will be using "depth of knowledge" as the goal (or means, neither of us is sure) to improve teaching. She is a new teacher and told me everything she could remember, but, while it sounds like a great thing, the whole thing sounds like a lot of educratese.

She is "supposed to take the lesson to a new level" and the stress is on the use of certain words, but surely it is the concept not the words.

The more she discussed the meetings they have had, the more it smacks of semantics.

Has anyone else heard of this?

I asked kids for feedback on how to teach Algebra 2

Two students responded.

One suggested I do word finds and "funner" worksheets.

One suggested I write larger on the "bored".

I can see how the latter will help (since she broke her glasses and is using an old set since her mother won't buy a new pair I don't think I can write large enough).

I am still puzzling over how the other works at all.

If I use the Pizzazz type worksheets, they cheat and don't do the math.

Oy Vey!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Reality show: first year teacher.

They have decided to do a reality show of a first year teacher, teaching English in Philadelphia. And the teacher is - Tony Danza.

It might be interesting. Starts Oct. 1 on A&E.Here is a preview.

Why can't people just do what they are paid to do?

My trash (should have been picked up Friday) is still on the street. I called, left a message that, once again, they have not picked up my trash, which is fine because their name and number is on the side of the trashcan for my neighbors to see and admire while my trash sits there, waiting to be picked up. You know, advertising for their wonderful service.

My Sunday paper is not there. Since we slept in, we could not call. I hope to remember this when my subscription runs out.

"I want my career back!"

This comes from several sources, like the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It is as if Lindsey Lohan is entitled to a mega star career, regardless of whether she does the work or follows the rules.

Now, it isn't a new attitude. I believe Marilyn Monroe suffered from the same delusion. And I am sure it goes back even further.

But I think about my own school days and look at the kids who are driving me nuts (from now on referred to as the evil 10%) and I wonder if this delusion, this sense of entitlement, hasn't spread further over the years.

TETP (the evil 10%)don't feel that they need to follow any of the rules in order to get the same result as those who do. They feel entitled to a B for doing nothing.

How does one combat this?

Turn around, turn around

Education Week had an article about the turnaround models and what they do to the school. The intent is to make the school better, but is that reality?

We are in the midst of this nightmare, the working conditions suck (because people are trying to make sure they get theirs rather than pulling together), the kids are more defiant than ever (which is not getting them to where they need to be - and, like always, this is not all the kids)

The author mentions these steps

1. A perception of failure, and labeling.
2. Taking academic shortcuts.
3. An increasingly burdensome workload.
4. A toxic work environment
5. Harassment and retaliation
6. Failure

OK, we are considered the lowest school in the county so their must be something wrong with the students attending and the teachers. I do not believe this is true, but I do see the kids not even try on standardized tests. I have started telling them almost every week that it is practice for the ones (standardized tests) that may matter to them and that they want to do well on. That they have to do their best on every one that is handed to them.

They haven't gotten to the point of scripting what we teach, but I fear it is coming. On the other hand, that would cost money neither the district nor the state has.

Workload: more reports, more observations, more discussions about what we are doing instead of just doing it.

A toxic work environment? I already talked about one teacher I work with - who is driving everyone nuts. I suspect it is to cover her own inadequacies.

Harassment and retaliation has been the name of the game from this principal for years, so maybe he saw the writing on the wall when he got here. He is uninvolved with his staff on any level and does nothing to encourage us to be better - not on our results (we get yelled at about that all the time) I mean better in our skills. When people have asked about this opportunity or that, he tells them they are not good enough to apply for it. The only thing we are encouraged to do is apply for grants so we would have money for this or that.

And finally, failure. The kids (again not all, but too many) seem to think think that because of the color of their skin (they say it, not me) that it should just come to them. I love telling kids to work in groups and having them slop garbage on the page. "You said you wanted work. You didn't say anything about it being correct." How do you answer that? I told that boy that I graded for accuracy, not that he had writing on the paper.

I have five 18 year old sophomores in one class. They tell me things like (when I told one he had been out 7 days and had missed an entire chapter) "That's past. [or would it be "passed"?] Let's move on." Then he slept the rest of the period, thereby getting the most out of my class.

They cannot graduate. I have taught most of them before and they either have no drive or no ability (or both). Is it wrong that I relish they days they are not in class? I certainly do not teach toward them.

I am grading papers. Next week should be interesting.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I am worn out

I don't think the kids I have are worse this year than previous years. It could be that I am just tired of the idea that they don't get better. The ones I had two years ago who refused to to listen during class still do not listen. Big surprise. I would think having to repeat a class would tell them they need to change.

Nope. They just keep saying (during class) that they are going to hire a tutor. Duh, why not be quiet, do your work, come to class? I guess it is easier to act up while you have an audience and make it someone else's problem.

I have a boy who dropped out last year. Unfortunately he is back. He sleeps during class (those are the best times), calls me insulting names (like Ayatollah - I should be impressed he even knows the word), or says he is going to do this or that to get me fired. I will be talking with his administrator. The problem is I am not impressed with the administrator's ability to deal with it. I keep hoping he will drop out again. He is already 18 and cannot graduate before he is 20.

And then I have the ones who are special ed. Some just do not know how to behave in a general classroom and expect that their wants, desires (note: not needs) will be met as soon as voiced. I want to help the ones that try, but do not expect that you say jump and I do. One has created such a hostile environment that I am going to have to talk to administrators, etc. about sexual harassment. I have NEVER had to do that, despite working in all male companies.

I saw this, thought of these kids, and wonder why I bother.

Two of the ones who made my life a living hell last year by tormenting a weaker student, came by last week, all hearts and flowers, "did you miss me?" I said yes, but it would be the way you miss the flu when you have recovered.

But, I know, when I list these ones who make it difficult, they make up about 10% of the students. That means 90% are not irritating.

I have got to learn to ignore them or I will not last in this profession.

Six Word Saturday

A day to rest: what joy!!

For more Six Word Saturday participants, click here.

I love that there is an extra day this weekend. Maybe I can even catch up!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Value Added

Nope, not going where you think.

I had someone send me a particularly snarky email today. This same person complained to the powers that be that another teacher gave a test and (horrors!!) let her students use NOTES for the test.

The teacher (I will call him Mr. Inept) doesn't score well on state tests and spends most of him time pulling other people down rather than finding a way to boost everyone up. I am currently trying to teach a dozen of his kids. I say trying because they HATE math and I am having difficulty getting them to give me a chance - or maybe they are just dweebs.

But, there are some teachers interested in raising everyone so we get better and some that want to raise themselves by making everyone else look like crap.

One of the current rumors is that IF we fail AYP again, the principal and half the teachers will be replaced. Maybe that is the impetus. But, if I were in charge of replacing teachers, I wouldn't keep someone like Mr. Inept.

The communication is even worse this year than in the past. Talking about stressors.