Sunday, February 19, 2017

Not quite the typical Thursday

So here was my attendance rate from this previous Thursday.

1st:   4 absent for 85%
2nd:  8 absent for 71%
4th:   12 absent for 61%
5th:   12 absent for 60%
6th:   9 absent for 47%

With the exception of first period, that's not a normal day at the office.  For a standard weekday that butts up against the weekend you might see 3-4 absences in each class with sixth period pushing more.  But Thursday was an unusual day.  Let's see what was going down on the sixteenth day of February, 2017.

-Field Trip to Universal Technical Institute in Sacramento.
I have some serious issues with private vocational schools that promise job positions, especially those that when you search for them it brings up quarterly revenue results for shareholders.  This grabbed four kids.
-Long Term Vacation students.
If people are really serious about schools and formal education then parents might not want to pull kids out for multiple weeks for vacations.  In the Fall, it's hunting.  In December, it's Mexican families.  In February, it's cruises/trips to the tropics.  In the Spring it's college visitations and trips to Europe.  This year I've had a dozen students do this and it's not yet March.  This week there were four.
-Early four day weekenders.
We had Friday and Monday off for President's Day, thus making the weekend a full four days.  It is not surprising in the slightest that some students left for the longer weekend.  If you are somehow surprised by parents and students engaging in this behavior then you don't work in pubic education. 
-That other thing.  Wait, let me think......

Oh yeah, that.  

There is a good chance I lost quite a bit of my student population to a boycott that was related in part to education.  First of all, boycotting education is fundamental idiotic.  Boycotting public education is beyond idiotic since we are one of the institutions that doesn't discriminate based on immigration status.  I wrote the following on my Facebook page so students could view it. 
"Immigrants come to this country because they find opportunity. That opportunity revolves around the idea that labor is exchanged for a fair wage, and children have the potential to live better lives than their parents if they develop their human capital to a greater potential.
Immigrants come from around the world to attend schools in the United States; whether it's the children of Mexican migrant farm workers in at a high school in Salinas or the children of factory workers in Shenzhen with a child in the University of Kansas, there is a realization that this country still presents an opportunity that is unparalleled on planet Earth.
Students that boycott education on a day that protests restrictive immigration policy are defeating the purpose of Day Without An Immigrant. Boycotting people that seek to empower your abilities achieves little. You may be able to vent frustrations but it will be to a society that questions your motives anyway, thus the status quo remains. Learn and be empowered and suddenly society will listen because you are knowledgeable, they will follow because you are powerful, compassionate, and trusted. You won't simply shout into the air you will dictate policy in communities, states, industries, and countries.
Teachers planning to boycott their jobs should reconsider the message they send to immigrants seeking opportunity. What message do you send by telling students that seek a better life to stay home? What does your absence say about your own stance on the education system, on your own classroom that not being there to develop skills and knowledge is the primary objective? You prove the point that immigrants are important to the United States by leaving kids less empowered to improve their future livelihood? That's a questionable philosophy, one that easily confuses personal agenda and activism with actual empowerment."
A couple of my former students jumped in and said that activism was the only route that was going to work for the current state of the failed institutions in the United States.  Can't say that I agree, especially when you look at the activism that exists in my high school.  Let's say that the late day absences were from the protest.  I wonder how that massive presence worked out downtown?

That's a reporter for the local newspaper that confirmed what others found out about the protest; that it only contained about 20 or so people.  After viewing pictures of the event I can confirm that the overwhelming majority of my students were not part of the protest.  It was a day off for many students that cared nothing about the message or the education.  Oh, and there were teachers that were simply giddy about the absences being a symbol of resistance against Trump.  That's one idiotic symbol.
How was your Thursday?

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Saturday, February 04, 2017

My own little protest.


And there’s my colleagues. 

Last week a group of 16 fellow teachers met across the street during lunch to protest the Senate confirmation of Betsey DeVos, nominee to be Secretary of Education.  There are two reasons I didn’t jump into the melodrama behind DeVos’ confirmation.

First, I don’t like the idea of bringing politics of individual teachers into the classroom.  I can get political here, on Facebook, and on Twitter but the classroom is a location where influential adults are trying to get young kids to critically think.  That becomes problematic when teachers preach elements of their political ideology as the normal social narrative.  Students start believing rhetoric and developing their own paradigms around the emotional logic of the instructor instead of looking at facts and, when dealing with government, actual laws.  My first 15 minutes of every class, every day is reeling in the concept of saying “that’s unconstitutional” is the solution for everything and trying to calm the nerves of 17 year olds that have been told the concentration camps are right around the corner.   But social justice and activism is sexy while providing a massive amount of signaling for like minded groups that seek change within society in Mendocino Country.  I’ll pass.  I don’t like the idea of being hypocritical; of cloaking critical thinking under a veil of activism while espousing emotional safety for those that only agree with a teacher’s view of the world. 

Second, federal involvement in education and the power of the Secretary of Education has been massively overblown.  The comments that DeVos would destroy public education, especially in the State of California, are wildly over exaggerated.  So she kills Common Core, enforces state’s rights to education, and dabs into voucher programs.  Meh.  I don’t like it very much but it’s not putting public education on the brink of Armageddon.  Would I actively protest a government action?  If I was really, really passionate about it, yes.  But it’s going to have to be a whole lot more than the Secretary of Education’s Senate Committee Confirmation Hearing. 

Now, I did engage in my little symbolic anti-DeVos moment of fighting-the-power.  On the ‘Wear Red for Ed” day of protest I wore a nice red tie and kindly answered that I was not going to protest across the street at lunch (for the record, nobody asked about the tie color).  So if I just explained why Betsy wasn’t that big of a deal, why the little protest? 

1)  She’s has no experience in public education.  It really helps to have knowledge in the area that you will be overseeing and DeVos has zero.  That’s not necessarily terrible if she worked towards acquiring a strong foundation in preparation for her job except that…..

2)  She still had no idea during her confirmation hearing.  I spent an entire course in college about students with special needs and I’m fairly sure I know more about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act than DeVos. 

Now, that alone should be enough to disqualify her from office and this is coming from someone who things the system needs to be strongly changed because the system is clearly failing a lot of students.  The one lifeline she has is her charter school experiment in Michigan.  Wait…

3)  Her Michigan Charter School experiment was a total failure.  Bringing in a controversial failure to fix systemic issues in public education, a system she has no knowledge of, is probably a bad idea. 

4)  Betsy DeVos donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups that advocated gay conversion therapy.  

Enough already.  Make her go away.