Saturday, October 24, 2009

Two things the Ukiah Daily Journal dealt with this week that I’m tired of watching

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A fabulous week for the school district in the newspaper.

As the Ukiah Daily Journal reported on Tuesday, our idiotic teacher’s union has refused to negotiate with the school district.  We aren’t at impasse or anything like that, the UTA (Ukiah Teacher’s Union) just doesn’t want to meet.  I went to a meeting where a union leader actually had the balls to say “The school’s budget is just fine, the contract is strong, and the district can do nothing to us if we don’t negotiate”.  This would be funny if it was a Mel Brooks movie.  But it isn’t, and young teachers are going to be in big trouble (as soon as January), and the fact that these people have the paychecks of hundreds in their hands is frightening.  That might be why some institutions are looking at alternative representation.

Today there was a story about the wonders of marijuana at the high school.  This week’s announcement by President Obama that the feds would not go after legal marijuana users has brought quite the reaction locally, where the UDJ has had article after article about weed within the county, as if it just realized that it was a huge part of society in Mendocino County.  The article isn’t too far off the mark about weed’s impact on the school, with the social order accepting the drug so readily and the school having a zero tolerance policy towards it.  However, I haven’t heard about students smoking during class.  I can guarantee that it isn’t happening in my classroom. 

I’ll be waiting for the positive high school story this week.    

The Grind

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When watching the Deadliest Catch, there comes a period called “The Grind”.  It is a seemingly unending work shift that can last for multiple days with almost no rest and a feeling like you are doing your job in an almost robotic fashion. 

For teachers this is called October.

If you are frequent reader to my blog you’ll notice that I’ve been pretty sparse with the postings lately.  That’s because I’m unbelievably busy.  I often have fantastic ideas during my prep period, but I need that time to prep for tomorrow.  I often have great ideas around 7 p.m., but I need to correct papers and input grades so I hold off on blogging.  I still have those great ideas at 11, but now I’m off to bed, only to be up at 5 a.m. and exhausted.  I’m straggling into class at around 6:15 a.m. to work up energy for my 7:30 class, and I try and get through the day.

Obviously I’m giving too much work since I’m so damn behind in my grading.  First quarter grades were due on Wednesday and I ended taking my AP US History classes and taking a bit of liberty in assessing grades.  I still have at least a half dozen assignments to grade and it wasn’t going to get done in time.  It wasn’t like the grades were going to be significant in change, but I feel unsatisfied none-the-less.  Oh, and Homecoming just ended.  This completely screwed up the minutes I had allocated to teaching and I’m still making up the time missed.  Fortunately, the students did a good job with attendance finished work ahead of schedule in the case of AP Comp Gov.

I don’t know about you, but my school is getting hammered with illness.  Interesting that it happened right after the late nights and crappy food of Homecoming, but listening to the news makes me think that it is just a really nasty bug.  While I hear plenty of rumors of Swine Flu, who really knows.  Lots of kids are coming down with the flu (my APUSH class was half gone early this week) and most come back insisting that it is Swine.  Nobody has been tested for it.  They just stay home a whole lot longer than usual.  This makes school that much more difficult because breaks and lunch become a teaching period were quizzes are made up, assignments are dealt with, and kids get make-up instruction. 

November will be better, I know it.  Basketball starts, Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and I get to listen to the rain coming down on my roof.

While I grade essays.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This time it ain't Tigger socks

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This is 11 year old Dean Martin from Adele Harrison Middle School in Sonoma, California.  Dean wore the Vallejo firefighter shirt on 9/11 to honor those that died in the line of duty on that tragic day.  Well, guess who has a blue/red dress code.  From Sonomanews.com:

"...the T-shirt violated Adele Harrison Middle School's dress code, which does not allow students to wear solid red or solid blue clothing due to the affiliation with gang colors. When Dean got to school, he was sent to the office for breaking the dress code. "When a student breaks the dress code for the first time, they're given a warning and asked to change their shirt," said Karla Conroy, principal at Adele, who added that Dean was given the chance to change into his gym shirt but refused."

We've seen stories like this before, most notoriously the Tigger Socks from Redwood Middle School in Napa.  Of course, this isn't about cute cartoon characters, it's about the recognition of American heroes. 

I really appreciate how the Martin family reacted.  The kid rode his bike home and then the family explained that they would follow the rules, but expressed their displeasure.  No lawsuits. 

While I understand the Martin family's displeasure, the school did the right thing in being consistent with their rules.  Of course the shirt wasn't malicious, and of course the intent is to stop gang activity, but if you are going to be a credible educational  institution, you need to tell Dean to change the shirt.  They gave him the option and he declined, so he was given a consequence.  It had to happen. 

However, I also think that the dress code needs to be looked at for viability.  I don't like the idea of banning colors for this very reason.  I wear red ties and blue ties to school all the time.  Am I breaking the dress code?  In theory yes, although the rule isn't designed for my beautiful choice of ties.  Either require uniforms or better yet, attack the gang problem by attacking the gangs themselves.  We had a loose interpretation a few years ago of a color dress code, and it slowly evolved into specific articles of clothing; Shoelaces, belts, do-rags, and hats.  The policy is more focused and has caused much fewer dress code issues.     

In the end, let's remember that the colors aren't doing the damage, gang-bangers are.