Saturday, June 05, 2010

Das End

The school year ended for me like every other school year.  Under a tree.

The tree is right next to where the students enter in the football stadium at Ukiah High School.  It's shady, away from the insane masses that fill the football bleachers, and provides me an easy in and out when I'm ready to depart.  As usual I greet old students, chat with other people, but pretty much remain  to my self.  The day isn't for me and I'm usually a bundle of mixed emotions.  I'm going to miss the Class of 2010.  There were students in that class that I had a real connection with and I feel like that connection will be missing with upcoming classes.  Who really knows.  Every class is different.  What I didn't feel this year was that anger at watching students graduate who didn't belong there.  Nothing makes me more angry that someone being bailed out of graduating something so important.  That didn't happen this year, at least for my students.  Those that walked, should have. 

The students enter and I clap for them, cheer them on, and then listen to the songs and speeches of the first half hour.  When the names start, I slip out and head back to my classroom.  Saturday isn't only for graduation, it's for last minute filing, book counts, and one last glance at the room for a few months.  I'm usually in my classroom for about 2-3 hours.  Once the ceremony is  done it will take at least an hour for  the line of cars to get off of Low Gap Road, and today I had plenty of time to peter around the classroom finishing up.

One thing I definitely feel is exhaustion.  While my classroom situation was pretty good (more on that for a later post), everything outside of my four walls was pretty poor.  More than one person said that it was the roughest year Ukiah High had ever had.  We lost students to tragedy, buildings to floods, and good young teachers to budget cuts.  We lost a teacher that was beloved by the school and community.  We watched crime rise again the drugs take a toll on the school.  Expulsions went way up.  Focus seemed way down.  And all the while, it rained.

The District and Ukiah Teachers are still at impasse.  Our union is so in denial, and so fearful that everything is being plotted by Men in Black, that it is frightening.  I sent a mass e-mail two days ago to every teacher pointing out that for two years nothing had been done and we were going into the summer not knowing our schedule, pay, or any financial situation.  The response was stunning.  Almost dead even were the replies.  I had teachers stop me at the school and insist that the conversation had to happen.  I also had e-mails calling me names and demanding that I remain silent.  In the end, the topic is out there and it should be addressed.  I'm done for now, but a note to my union.  I was elected as a site rep for next year.  40 aye, 4 no.  I'll see you in August.

Next year is looking daunting.  The best guess is that our department could be shaken up as people from around the district with Social Studies credentials might be filling in.  If our union stays as is, we could be looking at a Declaration of Fiscal Emergency.  If that happens, our contract is tossed and we play be whatever rules the District wants.  In the meantime, the lack of solutions has killed our school.  We are preparing for four counselors for over 1,600 students.  Earlier this year, it was three.  My Advanced Placement classes must stay above 30 to maintain, or they go college prep.  Comparative Government is fine, overbooked in fact.  But AP U.S. History is only at 33 students, and some of those students that signed up have less than stellar, way less than stellar, grades in History and English from the previous year.  Freshmen sports are gone.  That means that Frosh Boys' Basketball will have to become self-sufficient.  Coaches stipends will be cut drastically or eliminated.  And transportation for athletics is history.  Now parents are going to have to become a vital part of the program.  That has the potential for intensity.

Still, one has to remember that the greatest part of teaching occurs in the classroom.  My summer will be full of rest, but also will include the quest to make APUSH better.  The amount of information necessary makes 90% of the class lecture based with PowerPoints.  That can't be that way next year.  Everything else is tuning.

So 2010 is done, and while 2011 looks to be a challenging year, a lot of that could be my own doing.  We'll see.          
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