Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Ship Sank

Elizabeth, my anonymous commenter, wanted to know why I continue in this chosen field if I'm so negative and I've been pondering that while we've been having conference week. So, as my teammates and I have been conferencing with the most difficult of the 5th graders and letting them and their parents know that they are heading toward doom, destruction and failure, I have been wondering why I keep doing this. (Best conference - some mama was upset because her son, who just came to us - who has failed third and fourth and fifth grade -this would be his second attempt at fifth - -wasn't allowed to leave the room at will to pee. Really, Mitchell? Really? I would have thought that your first cause of concern would have been about the fact that your 13 year old can't read or add. And that he's still in 5th grade.)

I have also been searching for another path - something to do that would be as fulfilling as this job once was before the President and the Governor and all types of legislators decided that they could tell me what and how - as if their professional judgment was somehow better than my 20 years in all different types of classrooms.

I've also been keeping my eye on a most troubled young man - one of the most troubled students I can say I have ever taught. Every day, someone in our school finds out something different about him and his three brothers in our school. They arrived at our school in early December because they had been thrown out of their apartment complex because the first grader and third or fourth grader had been vandalizing the place and gang fighting. (WTF? the first grader?) None of these boys is anywhere near grade level and heaven help my fifth grader, he appears to be helping to raise his younger brothers while his three older brothers are doing who knows what and his mama - a "professional singer" sleeps all day long. My student missed three days of school this week - couldn't get anyone to return a phone call for me - but word on the street was that he was in the hospital. When he returned on Thursday, he told me that he had an infection in his tooth and his jaw was swollen almost shut. Had to have antibiotics - and will need to have a root canal. Uh - holy mandated reporter call. Find the social worker - I can't imagine how much this hurt and how long it had bothered him before this infection blew up.

So, why do I do this? It goes like this: before BrownBear entered kindergarten, it came down to what was I going to do while both of them were in school. I was a school teacher before the girls were born. I had taught junior college part time and preschool part time after they were born, but now, they were both going to be gone for huge chunks of time. I could help my family by going back full time (and staying out of the Target), especially since LawyerBoy is self-employed and one thing teachers usually get is insurance. We'll see how that goes from now on.

I had some extremely conservative friends who were homeschoolers and they were appalled by my decision - first of all to even send my children to school (really? you should see how well adjusted their kids are now) and second that I would even consider going back to work myself. But what they didn't understand was how lucky our children have it - Prep and BrownBear have never wanted for our attention or for food or medical attention or material things. But my friends couldn't believe that there were children who went without - I guess - and that was one of my other reasons. Who would take care of the kids who didn't have anyone? I could make a dent - and that's the rub. Here we are, trying to make a difference and our difference doesn't matter to those people in charge.

I'm not trying to get rich trying to teach. I'm trying to keep my house heated, my children fed and clothed and keep my insurance.

What I need people in office to realize is that I am as much of a professional as they are. I care for the future of this country. I don't need you to tell me how to do my job or for you to balance your budget on my back.

And yesterday, the Superintendent - the one who took a $25,000 raise this past year, told us, after holding back our step increases and having us take a 2% decrease in our salaries - that we were going to be furloughed three days.

So, thanks for the vote of confidence. Thanks for that thumbs up. Thanks. While you might not be elected to office, your entire school board, especially the members whose heads are so far up your ass, they can't talk until you open your mouth, are up for re-election. We're gearing up to throw you out. And we're just starting with the school board. The legislature and the governor are next.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chaos and Collapse

Before I take my bitter self off to make dinner (see the last post - evidently, I'm scaring the anonymous commenters), I just had to let you in on the latest.

Apparently, members of our school board - and this is rich - their attorney - were called before the grand jury. The fun thing is, they didn't tell the rest of the school board about their little visit (which occurred in December, hohoho, Merry Christmas); those members found out yesterday with the rest of us when the story broke on the front page of the local paper. The grand jury cited the board for operating behind closed doors, taking votes illegally and carting off concerned parents who are speaking even though said parents aren't causing a disruption.

Whee! And we thought the wheels were coming off the bus because of the budget concerns and test scores. I'm guessing someone's going to be under the bus before long.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Budget Woes, Testing Dilemmas and Math Standards

The governor released the budget yesterday and I've got a headache today. He thinks we need three more furlough days before June. He thinks wrong. We're already cancelling summer school. We're already doing more this year than we've ever done and expected to stay later and later and meet on non-meeting days with no compensation.

We also got a memo from the governor discussing legislation concerning The Race to the Top and merit pay - where half of our salary would come from student gains. Uh, really Sonny? Have you met these rascals I teach? They don't care if they write down a spelling assignment. I'm not tying my house payment and groceries to these incompentent rugrats.

While non-teachers think we've got it made, they've never dealt with the stress of getting these kids ready for a state test. And seriously, that is ALL education in this state has come down to - getting them ready to pass a test. (Remember that cheating scandal? The judge who sentenced one of them said he didn't agree with what had been done, but he understood the stress teachers and administrators found themselves under during testing.)

The passing score is only an 800 but this score is meaningless. Parents think that Johnny gets an 800 and all is right with the world when, in fact, Johnny makes an 800 and he's only mastered 40% of what he needs to know to go on to the next grade. What rattles my world is the fact that schools let everybody pass, no matter what the test score until they get to 5th grade and THEN they get KRAZY about their scores. I've got kids who failed the state test in math in 3rd and 4th grade and now we're expected to get them ready to pass the 5th grade test.

A few years ago, people complained that the state standards were a mile wide and an inch deep. Now, they're a mile wide and a mile deep. I have to teach 153 standards in math alone. Got that? I'm talking technology, fractions, geometry, data, decimals, and number sense. Yet I still have students counting on their damned fingers to add. Are you kidding me?

We were able to put a man on the moon in 1969 when I was starting 4th grade. That year, I learned my multiplication tables. I was not on the fast track to all this other stuff - I was able to learn (LEARN) these vital facts until they became a part of my being. Then we learned how to do multiplication problems. Then we learned division. And how to do long division.

We spent six months on fractions. And decimals.

In order to survive higher level math, students need to master - MASTER - everything about fractions and decimals. If you can't find an equivalent fraction or add decimals properly, you don't need to be finding the circumference of a circle when you're 10. There's no need for it.

When we put Neil Armstrong on the moon, we did it with guys who had mastered math like I did and they managed to do those higher level calculations with freaking slide rules.

We have overloaded and overwhelmed these kids with so much, they don't have a chance to master anything. Granted, there are always kids who get it and need to go on. But, there are so many kids who don't have any number sense that I am constantly banging my head against the wall, trying to fill in their gaps. And the gaps are pothole wide.

We have screwed over education so badly in this state and in this country, the ramifications are going to be devestating. The high school math in this district is senseless. People ask why my daughters go to private school while I teach in the public school. While the mess in discipline at the middle and high school was one issue, I also point to high school math in my district. My daughters are math geniuses (okay, maybe not geniuses, but they are girls and pretty damned great) and I was not about to let some idiots in the county mess up their futures. The spiral crap in high school math they teach confounds the best teachers.

How about we try something and see how it goes for a decade or so? We never see if something works for more than a year or two in this district? My school has decided to push Larry Bell's words this year. WTF? Who is Larry Bell and why does his take on test verbs really matter? Oh - wait. Next year, it won't. Sorry.

I have digressed, but I think I've made my point. The ship is sinking and no one is coming to the rescue.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Sick Bay

Cardinal rule in Teachergirl's room: if you are sick, HIT THE ROAD. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. The restroom is ONE door down from my classroom. Go for it. We will sort out any misunderstandings later.

I don't do sick - not even my OWN children's sick - so do not expect me to be all mommy/nurse there for you. It makes me gag just to think about it.

Because of the swine flu, I have sent students to the nurse without so much as a second glance. If you think you feel bad, you have my blessing. Go forth and be healed.

Today, one of my students asked to go to the nurse. I didn't hesitate - go, my dear. I may be getting played, but I'm not one to take a chance. The nurse sent her back and I just told her to have a seat and I continued on with math. Not ten minutes later, the sweet girl is throwing up into her hands and running TOWARD my desk. Holy vomitorium, Batman, run out of the classroom, not farther into it!!!!!! Thank goodness, a trash can was right in front of my desk, because if she had barfed ON my desk, full of lesson plans, report cards and a ton of my own junk, I would have fainted. And trust me, I nearly did when I saw what was going on.

The worst of it was the custodian tried to give me my trash can back.

I think I can do without this one.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Hell Has Frozen Over

As I listened to the weather reports about the impending gloom and doom heading our way, I expected nothing but a flirtation with this snow coming our way. So, yesterday afternoon, as I headed to my favorite bakery for its "Snow Day Special" (soup, rolls and pie!! yummy) and the flakes were coming down, I was pleased, but wasn't expecting a snow day. That's not how my district rolls. Suck it in, figure it out, get those kids on the bus - coats and wind chill or not. And if the superintendent does call it, he usually does so at about 5AM - worthless in my opinion.

However, there has been a miracle here in the South. I am home this fine day because of snow AND Alabama is the National Champion!! Roll Tide- we mess with Texas.

Even though hell has frozen over, it's going to be a good day.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

The Downhill Slide to Summer

A girl can dream, right? Summer, pools, sandy beaches...all the while, we are in the deep freeze - the high today was about 32 degrees in our lovely metropolis.

Back to school today - and back to school nonsense. Today's inservice, you ask? Singapore Math. As if United States Math wasn't bad enough. This is a system of drawing models to help students figure out word problems. If you follow the steps, you will eventually get an answer. Now, the only problem with this problem solving method is the amount of time needed to implement - another fifteen minutes per day - and the fact that you DO need to be able to do math once you get the picture/model drawing correct.

On another note, our superintendent sent the annual school climate survey to the teachers today. Is the man on crack? I love how he thinks that Christmas vacation smooths things over. Just another day in paradise.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Last Day of Vacation

Sundays are never, for me anyway, any kind of a vacation day.

It has to do with the death march of choir and Sunday School and the awful hour at which they occur. And the fact that LB's parents always lunch with us after church.

We do not get home from said obligations until after 2PM. While I shouldn't complain about honoring the Lord, I would like it to occur at a reasonable hour like my Catholic brethren. I walked into the Starbucks to grab a quick cup of coffee before starting my Sunday vigil. One of my friends was there with his family - already finished with Mass and enjoying some coffee, looking forward to the day. I was more than envious.

Today, however, is more than an average Sunday. In addition to being the last day of Christmas vacation for me it is also the evening of the Mistletoe Ball. Seniors are going to the Christmas formal tonight. You would think this wouldn't have much to do with me - but how wrong would you be? In addition to having a daughter getting ready for her last Christmas formal, I also have to go to the annual Picture Party this evening and mingle for an entire hour (AN HOUR) with my camera, ready to take pictures of any adorable moment my oldest daughter might be engaged in.

She has asked Brown Bear to come along with her camera in case Lawyer Boy and I can't handle it.

So, yesterday was a marathon in readying myself for school on Monday. Not ready at all. Won't be ready today and won't be ready tomorrow. We were told that report cards had to go home on the 8th three days before Christmas vacation. Unexpected and ridiculous in my district because elementary report cards are done by hand.

Yes, you read that correctly! In the 21st century, I am doing report cards by hand. Without a computer program to average grades provided by the county. I bought into a service, but teachers who don't opt to do this average grades on a calculator.

Ninety days, people. I'm looking for a new job. Any suggestions?

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Friday, January 01, 2010

A Happy New Year!

As vacation winds down, I am looking forward to the future - sort of. At least there are only 90 more days with these rugrats!
But, as happy as I'll be to be done with this year, I am filled with trepidation - Prep is going to graduate in May and I am sure this semester will fly by!
So, Happy New Year and hang on. It's going to be a ride, to say the least. Rough, rocky; whatever.


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