Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hey California teachers, Jerry Brown just screwed you. Just a little bit but still….

It’s summer time and that means house cleaning.  That’s a metaphorical term as I’m doing plenty to prepare not only for the upcoming school year but also for my educational future.  So, since December 31 of this year is the expiration date of my teaching credential, it’s time to head to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and renew my license.  It’s only a cool $70.  

Wait a minute.  The damn site won’t let me renew my credential.  I wonder what’s going on….

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Wow, what a coincidence!  The CTC won’t let me renew my credential now and is raising the fees by over 40%!  Actually, the total fee for me is going to by $102.50 because if you want to actually renew online (you know, without paper) the online processing fee is an extra $2.50.  Why?  I have no idea.  How about this; if you have to go through that boring, pointless horror show known as BTSA, you forgo having to pay for credential renewal forever!  It’s a fair trade.  

So thanks Jerry Brown!  You can’t tell the government to fund a government agency because politics.  Nice job!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thoughts from the 2015 AP Reading

One of the readers mentioned how idiotic it was that someone had blogged about the AP Reading.  I don’t think it was directed at me but I think I’m safe enough in my posts that I follow the College Board rules and don’t endanger my own future as a grader. 

That said….

-There were four high school teachers and three college professors at my reading table.  All of them had Master’s Degrees, save the one high school teacher from Mendocino County.  That would be me.  This doesn’t give me a complex because a more advanced degree basically means zero in the whole scope of teaching.  But it’s interesting none-the-less that people are spending an enormous amount of money with limited financial gain.

-Scott Walker will never get a vote from me.  What he has done to public education in Wisconsin sounds absolutely horrific. 

-Note to teachers; if you are simply preaching the sermon of the horrific corporation, you are really hurting your kids.  Going on your anti-corporation rants doesn’t allow kids to make real analysis regarding the costs and benefits of globalization. 

-Once again the most depressing thing to read during the grading week are the letters from students who either were forced to take the test, or that had a horrific teacher that did not prepare them.  It seems like more and more schools are throwing APs at students to boost statistics; so they can get ranked in U.S. News and World Report.  Schools are ranked high in that publication based on number of students taking AP tests.  From what I can see they aren’t learning much.

-The usual prom notes, life drama, musical lyrics, and numerous drawings filled out testing booklets this year.  This years oddity; quite a few 9/11 conspiracy theories.  This years trend; ridiculous amounts of “America is #1.”  Quite a few booklets had “why do I care about this shit because America is the best”, a frighteningly un-Advanced Placement attitude. 

Next year?  Maybe.  The dates are getting earlier and earlier, and the brilliance of our elementary school teachers pushed our graduation later.  This sucks for not only AP testing but also AP grading.  I might be out of luck. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Now’s a good time to talk Confederate flag in the classroom

Yes, I know that’s not the official flag of the old Confederacy.  Yes, I know that’s the Confederate battle flag. 

Also, shut up.  You know what we’re talking about here. 

The tragedy in Charleston has brought about a conversation about a controversial item that never really stopped being a controversial item in schools.  Now that Amazon, Sears, Wal-Mart, and eBay have removed Confederate flag items from their stores, and the National Park Service has eliminated sales of items that don’t have historical relevance, I guess the issue of Confederate flags in the classroom should probably be discussed.

While not prominent I’m fairly sure there is a small Confederate flag on some Civil War stuff I have in my classroom.  I’m not a big fan of the Confederate flag.  I don’t see slavery in the symbolism of the flag.  I see disunion and secession.  I see the attempt of a group of people to refuse to progress as a society and were so head-strong to stay in the Dark Ages that they were willing to destroy a new nation.  In the end it’s a symbol of backwardsness.

However I’m also not a big fan of people deciding what is and is not offensive, and then banning those things because they are controversial.  A few years ago controversy sprang up at our school because some people had Confederate flags on their shirts, emblems on their jackets, or stickers on their binders.  Some teachers wanted the items banned because some students found the image offensive.  I was not one of those teachers.  In fact I was one of those teachers who said that, according to the courts, the image did not have a history of causing violence at our school so it was constitutionally questionable to ban it. 

So what happens when a Confederate flag is seen in the classroom?  Most of the time, nothing.  Giving a symbolic item power usually comes from people getting hysterical (justified or not), thus creating a condition that focuses on the item, not the issue.  In all likelihood the Confederate flag will come up early in the year because it’s been on the news.  We’ll discuss what it means, the history behind it, and the constitutional issues around the flag.  In the end the image of the Confederate flag will remain regardless of its offensive nature.  Why?

1.  It’s constitutionally protected under the 1st Amendment. 

2.  Banning “offensive” items, especially those of a political nature, is a really slippery slope.

And we are teaching young adults here.  We are teaching them to think, debate, collaborate, reason, and act in a way that creates a benefit to society.  Debating controversial things is a benefit to society. Enforcing political and social agendas on teenagers because you have a moral superiority complex is not.  I detest the Confederate flag.  That’s not point.  What it represented, what it represents now, and how it will be represented in the future in the minds of these young people. 

That’s the point. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Another AP Reading

The only thing I miss about Kansas City is the BBQ. 

The AP Reading is now in Salt Lake City, Utah and I can’t be more thrilled.  The food inside the convention center is better.  The food outside the convention center is better.  There is no humidity.  The city scape is gorgeous.  The transportation system around the area is one of the best I’ve seen.  Yep, I love Salt Lake City. 

Except for the near beer.  A brother can’t get a damn regular beer with pizza.  Nope.  I order a Blue Moon forgetting where I was and got a 3.4% something-or-other.  Ick.

At the Kansas City Convention Center we had to walk down a couple of long halls, about 2-3 city blocks, to get from chow to testing room.  Here?  We walk about half the distance, only we are about four levels up in a small corner of the convention center.  Sort of like the lost attic area where you can work with no one bothering you. 

Oh, and about the test reading……

Uh, uh, uh; no test info for you.  Remember the number one rule of AP Reading. 

#1 Rule:  Don’t talk about the AP Reading.

Ok, how about a couple of side notes then.

-People here are actually getting quite sick.  Apparently the mixture of the dry air and higher altitude have made a nasty combination for those that don’t drink plenty of water and get some rest.  Me?  I’m a little dry but I’m doing  just fine with the altitude. 

-I left Ukiah at 3 p.m. and stayed the night in Sparks, Nevada.  I left Sparks at 6 a.m. and, stops and all, got to Salt Lake City at around 2:30 (including the time change).  Yes, the trip across the Great Basin area of Nevada sucks.  And it rained half the way across the state. 

-Did you know that AP Comparative Government has the lowest turnover rate for test readers?  They keep coming back!  We seem to all recognize each other as regulars and it’s actually pretty comforting. 

-That also means that I took a bit of razzing about the Giants winning the World Series.  All in good fun.