Thursday, September 27, 2007

The kind of posts that make you all fuzzy inside.

I had to add Scheiss Weekly to my blogroll because she simply kicks ass. I don't know what the hell I was thinking holding her off, since I'm visiting all the freaking time.

This week she has one of those posts, again, that just sums it all up.

The thing is, you see, that teaching children to behave in public is actually the job of the home, and when the home doesn't do its job, the teacher is forced to do it, along with his/her actual job, which is to teach children to communicate clearly, to figure things out on one's own, to calculate and to draw and to write and to sing and to play the violin, and to generally take care of oneself so that when the child is grown, he/she will know how to do these things and be a productive, happy, creative citizen who will require his/her own children to buck up and show some spunk, too. To those of you who are horrified that I do not mention the teacher's job of motivating students, I will have only this to say: Motivation is also the job of the home and of the student himself/herself. The teacher can inspire, but one can motivate only oneself.

Because of many homes' refusal to teach simple behavior skills and any desire for learning, teachers have to devote much of the time formerly used for actual teaching, to disciplining, refereeing, first aid, breaking up fights, putting up with talking out, inappropriate language, touching, bullying, stealing, swiping, teasing (which is a kind of bullying, in my opinion) and just generally policing a classroom instead of helping children learn to sing, draw, paint, play, write, communicate, figure, debate, organize, and safely think out of the box. Really? Anything the students and the teacher are required to "put up with" that holds the majority of the class back, should not be there.

I believe that any behaviors that hinder a class's ability to relax, smile, learn, demonstrate learning, leave their property unguarded, go to the restroom without fear, concentrate,hear what's going on, continually move up up up, and be able toexperience a positive learning environment free of disruption, shouldnot be allowed under any circumstances.



Wow. Doesn't that just get you totally head-over-heels for the Mamacita?

I'm fortunate that my classroom management is super easy this year, with only one problem in one class that has the potential of becoming an issue. However, I'm already hearing the horror stories of kids misbehaving, parents calling out the teacher, then the parents calling out the teacher to the admin because the teacher had a "bad tone". Bad tone? How about the fact that your kid willfully breaks class policies?

Anyway, I'm in love with this post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Carnivial of Education

I've been so busy as of late that I haven't been giving the proper respect to the Blog Father, The Education Wonks, and his Carnival of Education.

Go visit it, before he makes me an offer I can't refuse.

Hey CTA, I'm paying you. The least you could do is tell the truth.

It must have been the e-mail that had huge font.

"Nancy Pelosi and George Miller are no longer friends of the CTA. They are trying to get a bill passed that links teacher salaries to testing! We can't let this stand! Rise up and prepare the Dogs of War to battle! Remember the Alamo! Truth, Justice and the American Way!", or something like that.

Of course, this immediately made me cast doubt. My guess was that the local CTA rep, a guy who makes it always look like Sacramento and the local school districts are on the level of the Chinese Communist Party, was simply feeding into the NCLB re-authorization frenzy. So, irritated but calm, I went home and started to do a little research.

Then came my wife came home, flying through the door, enraged and going on about a CTA e-mail that said that test scores would determine her salary. First of all, you link test scores to salary and you will lose teachers, period. While NCLB is correct in holding schools more accountable, it is implemented in a fashion that makes you wonder if Cliff Clavin is the man in charge. It would reward schools in affluent districts and punish schools with Second Language Learners, Special Education students, and the economically disadvantaged students. Plus, I don't like the idea that my pay could be attached to some asshole parent that simply signs her kid out of the test because she hates the Principal or reads a column from that moron K.C. Meadows. So my wife and I calmed down and called the office of Rep. George Miller. The lady on the phone was aware that the CTA was in a panic mode, and was clearly confused at why the union had decided to go on the defensive. She pointed us to the document, which isn't a bill, isn't an amendment, but a draft sheet of a possible proposal..........aka, it's really nothing.

We investigated the document and found that the proposal isn't a connection between test scores and pay, it's a voluntary bonus incentive program. Highlights:

-performance pay bonuses of up to $10,000 for outstanding teachers.....The evaluation criteria must be developed in collaboration with local teacher unions and based on multiple measures of success including student learning gains, principal evaluations, and master teacher evaluations, based on objective criteria.

-Competitive grants for high-need school districts to establish career ladder programs that increase salaries for those teachers who expand their knowledge and skills and take on additional responsibilities or leadership roles within the school. Teachers who serve as master teachers as part of a state-of-the-art induction program can receive up to $10,000 annually while mentor teachers can receive up to $5,000 annually.

I don't get it. This is asking, requiring, that unions collaborate with the district in creating criteria that will get good teachers a bonus for good teaching, and did I mention, THIS PROGRAM IS ENTIRELY VOLUNTARY!!!!!!!!! It is voluntary to the district and voluntary to teachers! Then, oh my God, you are telling that if a teacher decides to increase their knowledge or skill base, THEY COULD MAKE MORE?????? Ok, where do I sign up?

Seriously, you make a fair evaluation of what an "outstanding teacher" is and I'll be in line for this program. I'm confident that the administration that would be evaluating me (management) would do so with regards to high standards and quality teaching. I'm fairly confident (you might call it arrogance) that I would pass the evaluation. If not, then I'm sure that I could do what is necessary for a nice financial incentive that will be ON TOP of my regular salary. Oh, and what about the career ladder program? Let's see, this summer I:

-attended a two day San Francisco Federal Reserve Conference
-attended a five day Seattle Advanced Placement Conference
-attended a seven day Teaching American History Workshop
-began the three year Teaching American History Program
-attended a five day workshop on developing curriculum in Social Studies in Santa Rosa
-took a class on the Roots of Terrorism
-took a class on Van Gogh's Impact on Impressionism
-took a class on Urban Transportation in U.S. History
-Created the Advanced Placement Comparative Government class at the high school (after creating International/Global Studies last summer)

Oh, I don't know, I think that I'm working towards bettering myself as a teacher for the benefit of students. I don't see a damn thing wrong with the government saying, "You know what, you deserve something extra for showing that you really want to be the best", since the CTA hasn't done a goddamn thing to acknowledge that fact but continue to raise my tax to that corrupt corporation.

However, this is why I decided to be a site rep for my local union. This morning I sent a letter to the local powers-that-be and told them that the message was a lie. Then I told them the truth. I then sent a message to all the teachers at my site and told them the same thing. After all, unlike the CTA, I realize that I represent them, the membership. It is their money the union spends. The least we could do is tell them the truth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And let's talk about taser boy.

A kid who had a history of outragous pranks asks a U.S. Senator about Bill Clinton's blow-job, and then resists four police officers and screams that the police are going to kill him.

Can you honestly say that the guy was tasered for free speech???? You don't think the 2 minutes that the cops were warning him and the guy constantly resisting had something to do with it? You think that if he'd shut his mouth after his first question (he asked many, and Kerry was trying to answer) and walked away that the police would have said, "No you little prick, get yo' ass on the ground right now! Next time, ask a question about a Tom Friedman book or you'll be shot!"

Somewhere in the mix of shouting "Free Speech", people forget the idea that comes with responsible actions and they end up making James Madison a genius for his thoughts in Federalist #10.

I've seen evidence of police brutality (duh, there are assholes in every profession), and this was not police brutality.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pledge

Our new principal has revived a tradition at the high school level that hasn't been a morning ritual since I've been here; the singing of the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance. The singing isn't an every day thing, some days are attached to a patriotic quote or a small tidbit of patriotic information that is important to this country's history. But once or twice a week, classes are supposed to stand and salute the flag (a salute could simple be standing) to pay homage to the values that this country stands for.

One teacher came to me and said that in Northern California, the Pledge of Allegiance has become a symbol of ignorance, and that was a tragedy. I'm inclined to agree with him. However, as a Government teacher, I was put in an interesting position when asked by my students "What are my rights regarding the Pledge?" Part of my interest in teaching Government is ability to tell kids what their rights are, and also to make sure that they understand that having "rights" doesn't always make that decision correct. My answer to the students was that they were under no obligation to do anything during the Pledge but sit quietly and not disturb others. Then I attached the precedent court case to the issue, and then I explained that I would stand and face the flag because I wanted to give a small "thank you" to the country that gave me the opportunity to succeed in what I wanted to do in life. It was also my moment to show respect to those that fought and died, regardless of which politician sent them to battle, for the values of this country. Although I don't give political opinions, I'm not hesitant in the slightest to tell students that they are fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world. Then I tell them that its up to them to keep it that way.

During the two actual Pledge's during the first week, 0 out of 34 students stood. This drew the ire of some teachers that felt that I was giving off an atmosphere that was subtly anti-American. This is absolutely untrue of course. I think that students being able to make a choice that's legally theirs is very American, and by the way, I'm modeling saluting the flag.

This week about 25% of the kids stood for the Pledge.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Teacher Forever?

After dealing with certain school issues last year, and now being told by the Federal Government that we are Program Improvement, teachers are starting to question whether or not the profession is really for them. I can't really blame people. The media is against teachers, the town shows no signs of attracting business (which equals enrollment), the environment is non-academic and incredibly expensive, and worst of all, change is not looking positive for the long term. This is a clear sign of "stay away" for young teachers, or simply a sign to get your feet wet and go to greener pastures down the road, something that I've heard mentioned a half dozen times in the last month.
I have to admit, I've talked about it with my wife. We have both expressed interest in getting Master's Degrees, and possibley looking to teach at higher levels. By Master's, I mean degrees that we really enjoy acquiring, not that buy-me-over-a-year degrees in Education that would be painfully boring, and somewhat humiliating. I'm interested in Master's Degrees in History, Political Science (more towards International Relations), or Urban Planning. Hell, I would go back to school and get a BA in Urban Planning if I had to. I would enjoy it! However, both of us feel that where we work is a huge factor in us sticking around. We both like our schools a lot, like the people in that admin position, and we really like our colleagues. I love the people I work with; people with dedication, high standards, and a passion for helping kids succeed in society. I feel very protective of my department and consider it the best on campus, which might be why I get a little pissy about media articles that tear apart hard working people.

This entire mode of thought came from a post I read this morning in Dy/Dan, a teacher that graduated from, of all places, Ukiah High School. It sounds like he's got the itch to move on, to go on to greener pastures. His trade-off situation is interesting; does he want to go into Administration, or go after his Doctorate. As is probably evident, I would go after my Doctorate and wouldn't even bother attempting a administrative position. My weakest part of teaching is parent relations, and an administrator needs to have good PR skills. I'll say "No" and then "because that's the way it is", which doesn't go well with everyone.

In the end, it looks like he's just a little burned out, already. I offered him some advice; calm down, put a little more attention towards yourself, and realize that the most important stuff goes on in the classroom. If you burn yourself out by preparing, you're no good when the payoff comes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

KC Meadows is painfully stupid

A colleague of mine brought an article to my attention from the Ukiah Daily Journal. It was from the Editor in Chief, and local education hate-monger, KC Meadows. On Thursday she wrote a welcome message to the new Superintendent of the district, Lois Nash. The letter was full of sarcastic, backhanded remarks that were meant to give off a completely negative image of the school system in Ukiah.
Before I tear this garbage to shreds, let me remind you that this is the same Meadows that came into my classroom and tried to trash the school while Rep. Mike Thompson was speaking to my students. This is the same Meadows that didn't want the school up to code for Title IX or the Americans With Disabilities Act because she felt it was too big to upgrade. Finally, this is the same Meadows that was advocating for a community marijuana garden in a plot of land across the street from the high school.
So KC made some rather rude remarks pointed at the district. Here are some of the ignorant brats shots, and the truth........

"We have test scores that......are far from something to crow about. We have several schools in the federal equivalent of detention for their lack of progress."

-The truth is, the high school made some of it's largest gains in the history of the school. Not only did the school meet its score goal, it jumped almost 45 points above it. All subgroups made target gains. We met all the goals of the AYP, but failed to pass the NCLB requirement because of the same reason many schools are failing. According to Federal Law, teachers must follow the conditions of the IEP, even if they require accommodations for the tests. We also have some of the highest populations of special education students in the state. If teachers make accommodations for students (like reading the test to the student), the test is invalidated. Guess what, we got a group of tests invalidated and didn't meet the 22 benchmarks for passage. It is the NCLB paradox. Follow federal mandate......or follow the other federal mandate. There is no way around it.

"We have a school district that is hostile to local charters."

-Please. You should see some of the proposals for the local charter schools they want to open in this town. Most have no long term projections, haven't a clue about the state standards, and have absolutely no plan for fiscal responsibility. Meadows, like the rest of the "charters are the answer" crowd, would rather have anyone with a pulse run a school instead of people that have a clue.

"We have gangs and drugs circulating on our middle and high school campuses"

-Is it me, or is it just plain funny that a staunch advocate for the protection of marijuana rights is complaining about drugs in our schools? Drugs circulating on our campuses???? How about the entire town. It's pretty difficult for the school, one of the last islands were drugs are actually illegal, to fight the entire community when the newspaper promotes it, the government won't prosecute it, and people readily accept it. As for the gangs, in the last three years the violence on campus has taken a huge drop off as the administration and teachers continue to work towards nailing the gang problem. But again, until the community actually decides to rise up and solve the problems of Laws and Observatory Avenues, gangs won't go away.

She then went on to rave about the community supporting the school, and then implied that the schools don't appreciate it. This is the crux of the issue that involves everything that needs to be fixed in Ukiah, California. Teachers are thankful for the community leaders and business people that take the time to work with kids. Hell, if I had a nickel for every time I saw Marty Lombardi of Mendocino Savings Bank helping kids, I'd be on a beach in Maui. Not to mention the support from local groups and business that help arts, music, sports and just plain support the goings on of the school. But here is the truth: the town is not an environment for learning, and it doesn't wish to become one. Take the front pages of the local paper. Often they are stories that are either about the legalization of drugs (whether it be the "mean police" or effort of government to rein it in) or problems with the school district. The town is losing population because the culture is not conducive to industry. People complain that businesses (other than Big Box retail) are not coming to the town, and in the same breath curse the police for raiding their pot garden that attracted thieves and enhanced the meth problem of the town. If the paper really had balls, they would work with the community in making a plan for the town that would promote smart growth in hopes of attracting good companies and making the atmosphere conducive to learning. This would include a campaign for "smart expansion" (don't simply grow, do it right), working with schools to help the local atmosphere of the town, working towards eliminating the drug culture of the community, and connecting with local economic councils to attract business to the area that will bring the community to a more prosperous level.

Of course, this is all a pipe dream. As long as the village idiot, KC Meadows, runs the paper, we will continue to see all the issues of the school that are actually problems with the town. More articles will come out that promote drug use, and slash and burn the school. One wonders what kind torture that Meadows went through at Ukiah High School that seems to bring out this resentment towards the hard working citizens and students that make the school function. Regardless of that answer, Meadows' crap will continue to show the community where her soul really lies; away from education, and at the bottom of the pool of bong water that she promotes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Absolutely.....................dead...............spot...........on

Scheiss Weekly explains the state of Education to perfection. Read it, if you have the guts.

Program Improvement

Ukiah High School officially became a Program Improvement School this year. The primary reason was simple....most years did not find enough students taking the stupid tests. AP students didn't take them because they were redundant, Latino students didn't take them for two years because of stupid protests, and many parents would simply sign students out of the tests because they didn't like it.

Sure, and tests really measure the performance of a school.

Just wait until the electives are gone, people. You will have little to blame but yourselves.

UTA

I did it because I see some changes on the horizon for the school district, and I see very few young teachers doing anything about.

I became a site representative for the Ukiah Teacher's Association, yet again.

I might just be a glutton for punishment, but I see too much coming down the pike to simply sit and wait for stuff to happen without a say. So yesterday afternoon, out of nowhere, I decided to participate in the union.

The meetings still haven't changed much, except that the issues seem to be much more relevant as the times have changed. Now that we are Program Improvement District, the issues of time management and the god awful meetings that are coming will probably be in the debate bin. Highlights from the meeting:

-The group is slimming down bureaucracy, something that I see as beneficial for the overall management of the group. I like that the position is gone, but I don't like the knowledge that went with it, which will be addressed at a later meeting.
-A CTA rep came in and helped offer legislation that was basically a method of pissing people off. I won't get into specifics except to say that unions should not make shows of force in situations that don't need a show of force.
-On the other hand, I found out how much our new superintendent makes. She makes more than our last one, by a lot. And she will get a significant raise next year. And a comparable one the year after that. The district is, in the meantime, in financial straights. I have a shitty computer, I'm missing desks, and we are some of the lowest paid teachers with some of the worst health care in Mendocino County. Fine, I'll eat getting a raise to help the district. A good manager would buck up and do the same.
-We gave members of another school district money when they went on strike. I was not only never notified about this, I never voted on it either. On a sidenote, this was announced right after the CTA rep said "One Person, One Vote". I forgot to mention to the rep that I didn't get to vote on the CTA tax increase either.
-It was a big deal that CTA corporate chief Barbara Kerr retired. Thank you for raising dues and stealing my money without my permission. Don't let the doorknob hit you where the dog should have bit you.

My promise to myself is that I'll stick with the union gig as long as it doesn't impact my teaching. Anything that irritates me too much isn't worth it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Week one done

Well, my first week of my seventh year has come and gone, and all is quiet on the western front. My classes have worked out very nicely so far, and my one classroom management concern has actually become empowered with the class and has made very excellent contributions to discussions. I'm concerned about the International Studies class, but I think that I might be putting too much pressure on myself to make this some God-like experience for the students. My AP level class is currently learning college prep economics, and I already get a sense that college prep work is beneath them, or so they think. It will be interesting how they address economic problems that have simple answers, because this is a group that wants to throw every variable known to man into every equation.

I was pretty happy with my choice to make a last minute change on the first serious assignment that I do. I used to take the Preamble of the Constitution, split up the sections, and have students create artistic renditions of what those sections of the Preamble meant to them in groups. Why the art? Honestly, because the ELL crowd was really humping the "diverse instruction" part of education so much that I thought that it was really doing some good. What I found was that students where not totally engaged. Sure, a group would draw, but the discussion was minimal and students would either do their own thing on paper or do nothing. Instead I took the same sections of the Preamble and told the students to cite successes and failures of the United States in meeting the roles stated in the Preamble. Students were engaged and throwing ideas down on paper, which would often lead to side discussions about government. The change was good and effective.