Thursday, May 27, 2010

A little calm

It’s almost 5 p.m. and I’m sitting in a dark classroom. 

You know those motion detector lights?  Well, they don’t really sense me when I’m typing away, so occasionally they will go out and I’ll have to wave my hands like a nutcase to get them back on.  However this time I just like them off.  They went out about five minutes after I finished the final touches on my teacher evaluations that I give my students to evaluate me.  It is the last thing I really have to mess with before I can call “done”.  The rest is just grade input and dealing with unhappy Seniors about their grades. 

But at this point, with the hard stuff finished, listening to the rain patter on my room in a quiet, dark classroom is kinda nice.  After a turbulent year, it let’s me take a moment to just chill.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

End of year notes

-Notice that I haven’t been on much.  This has less to do with grading and more to do with all the meetings, e-mails, and phone calls I have to do to deal with the fact that students are not doing a good job holding up their end of the bargain.  All of this technology has made very little difference in the responsibility of the student to pay attention to his/her own grade.  What it has done is bring more work for the teacher to keep the technology updated and relevant, which means it is becoming a waste of time.  The responsible, motivated students use the resources.  Most students don’t.  That means double the work.

-I can tell you why grade inflation occurs.  It occurs because teachers are pushed into doing it.  This year’s Seniors are extremely enabled.  There is a good chance that I won’t be failing anyone this year.  At the college prep level, the reason is because anyone who had a major chance at failing is already gone.  Students that don’t want to deal with school have been sent to Independent Study to finish out their careers doing packet work.  And since the students couldn’t handle getting up in the morning and going to class, better they are “college ready” by having them do crap and graduate.  By the way, many of these students are planning on junior college.  Many won’t be able to handle it. While in the Admin building I told a staff member that it looked like I wasn’t going to have any “F’s” this year.  The staff member said “That’s great!  It looks like you are becoming a really good teacher!”  I almost punched the wall.

-Speaking of grade inflation and enabling, the open Advanced Placement experiment is now officially a pain in the ass.  Student grades have plummeted since college acceptance occurred and now parents want the better grades so they don’t have to worry about little precious getting accepted into a four year university.  The responsibility is now on my head that Johnny has a 64% because Johnny has totally checked out since April.  Now the deal making starts. 

“Ok, so if my child gets a “D” in an AP Gov class, can you just give them “C” credit for a college prep Government class?  Doesn’t it just make sense?  Doesn’t he deserve that?  Why should YOUR class prevent him from getting into college?”

I’ve had a dozen of these conversations.  I’ll end up capitulating on all of them, I can almost guarantee it.  It isn’t about Admin support (I have plenty), it’s about cost/benefit analysis, and that in the end, I’ll probably lose the argument anyway because society doesn’t really want their kids to be held accountable.  So my last week of school, along with potentially days after, is supposed to be filled with pressure from counselors, irate parents, and threats of Superintendent or Board involvement?  For what?  So I can be told at the end “just give them the grade, in the end it really doesn’t matter”.  No thanks.  Guess what college professors, you have the luxury of ignoring parents that bail out children.  We don’t.  Sorry.

-I might be getting my first formal complaint.  A student clearly broke the rules (after breaking them before and being warned), suffered the consequences, and I was told the parent was planning to file a complaint about it.  And you wonder why teachers don’t want to get rid of tenure.

My wife is ten times more nurturing and motherly to her students than I am with mine.  I’m the strict disciplinarian.  We bounce ideas and experiences off each other every day and we make each other better teachers.  Yesterday we were in the car and we both talked about not doing this job anymore.  We both love teaching students and we both love the colleagues we work with.  But we both are getting tired of not being allowed to do our jobs.  Mark down the day.            

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Texas “WTF” Moment

I guess every state has a WHAT THE FUCK (WTF) moment.  Alaska was probably the most recent state to experience this when they introduced the world to one Sarah Palin.  Alaska……WTF?

In the wake of the U.S. Government creating a framework of Social Studies Standards for states to follow, Texas decided to go its own route and rewrite the importance of history.  Texas, along with Alaska (shocker), chose to ignore the national standards and adopt those that better suited their own cultural identity, whatever the hell that means.  Actually, it’s pretty clear what the state wanted to do.

Members maintained that they were trying to correct ‘liberal bias’ among the teachers who proposed the national standards. To that end, they made dozens of minor changes aimed at calling into question, among other things, concepts like the separation of church and state and the secular nature of the American Revolution.

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a member of the Texas State Board of Education, “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….

Make the check out to:

Ukiah High School Boys’ Basketball

1000 Low Gap Rd

Ukiah, CA. 

95482

The Texas School Board also included a part to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

Changes were made to the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., something that I figured was already taught. 

Also included was studying the “the unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation, and making sure to stress that Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism.

In economics, the revisions add Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek, two champions of free-market economic theory, among the usual list of economists to be studied, like Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes. They also replaced the word “capitalism” throughout their texts with the “free-enterprise system.”  I would have to argue that both Friedman and von Hayek were students of Adam Smith, and therefore aren’t really important to a high school economics student.  

Probably the most profane amendment was to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone.  Thomas Jefferson may be right up there in the Top 10 most important Americans category not only because of the issues regarding religious freedom, but his grace and ability to pick up leading the nation after being the first opposition party to win in the country’s young history.  His value to this country is immeasurable.

Unless you are from Texas.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It represents everything wrong with a teacher’s union

Today union members gave election speeches for the spots on the Adult’s Table within the organization.  One member said it best.

“I believe in unionism.  I am a strong supporter of the union and everything it stands for.”

See, I’m a teacher and I want a teacher to lead the union, not a low level wannabe politician.  Nowhere in the speech did the person focus on the concept of bettering our profession and working towards making our district survive this crisis.  It was all about what we didn’t have, how everyone needed to be heard (a joke coming from this speech), and how the union was vital in the lives of educating students. 

Tell you what, when we lose athletics, electives, and Advanced Placement classes, I’ll be sure to tell my students that it was vital for Ukiah Teacher’s Association to refuse to negotiate for six months.  I’ll then explain how an absolute refusal to consider furloughs, even one day, was vital to their lives, since they really won’t need those teachers that will be laid off instead. 

It’s sick.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The elephant in the room, or south of the border.

With Arizona creating an unconstitutional law and the issue of race constantly at the forefront of any immigration debate, I’ll do what I usually do with this touchy conversation.

I’ll talk straight.

Today I walked into to school with Red, White, and Green paper chains all over the east side of my building, Mexican flags hanging from the rafters, and the phrase “Viva Mexico!” in chalk on the ground.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, it happens to be May 5th, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo.  If you are just arriving on the planet, Cinco de Mayo is known in the United States as a holiday to drink Coronas with Lime and dream that you have some ethereal connection with a beach on the Yucatan Peninsula.  In Mexico it’s the celebration to honor the state of Puebla and the Mexican army’s defeat over the French.  It’s pretty much celebrated in Puebla and nowhere else in Mexico. 

Students were “excused” by certain teachers to prepare for the lunchtime party on this day of celebration, just like they are excused for Latino Retreats, MESA party days, and other activities that are supposed to bring about self-esteem through the establishment of cultural identity.  This brought about quite the hidden rage from teachers and others (including me) who are starting some serious backlash regarding how this population is being treated.  We are talking about a massive amount of support that is going towards a population that doesn’t seem to be showing progress on those exams that the Federal government has deemed oh-so-important.  But how is that support been brought about?  Cultural identity.  Enhancing feelings of Mexican nationalism.  Working around students going to Mexico for weeks on end only to show up with no work completed.  That’s right.  The same population that is given a massive amount of support doesn’t seem to be paying off in terms of the investment, or doesn’t seem to want to work to that end.

Now calm down, I’m not some idiotic Tea Partier that is screaming to deport all the illegal immigrants.  I’m bringing up valid points that I’ve addressed in the past.

-Why do we seem to treat Mexican populations with cultural kid gloves compared to other immigrant populations?

-Why do we stress multi-culturalism over a rigorous academic model of instruction?

-Why do we deny the fact that certain immigrant communities don’t seem to value education very much, and why don’t we work towards changing that?    

And again, before you scream racism I’d like to point out that immigrant populations throughout history (and today) seem to be thriving in the system, while the population that gets some of the most generous financial support does not.  And I’ll also remind you that populations going back to the early 19th Century came to the United States because of opportunity and a chance to be a part of the educational system.  Today it seems like it is taken for granted that immigrants coming from Mexico should be treated with a careful awareness of their sensibilities.  Don’t worry about learning English or being “College or Career Ready”, just feel good about being who you are and everything will turn out fine.  Meanwhile, school scores go South because certain sub-groups can’t pass 8th grade equivalency tests.

Obviously this isn’t the only problem in public schools, nor is it a problem with with all immigrant families.  I have plenty of immigrant AP students that work their asses off and will make a fantastic contribution to society.  But guess what those students are doing while the Mexican dancers are showing off at lunch?  Those students are taking AP Calculus tests, and they are paying for it with their own goddamn money.  I wonder how much money went into that idiotic display at lunch, and who paid for it?