Tuesday, December 9, 2014

interview with a vampire

A school district near me has teachers who are seriously threatening a strike over class size and pay. I have been a teacher and am all about class size reduction (16 per class. Believe me. Its the perfect number, and test scores proving otherwise are bunk, but that is another topic). I do think teaching is often an under-respected profession. But. A big but. (Yes this is not proper English, carry on.) When at least in my own dostrict, children ard using the same textbooks I used in middle school and the district is in violation, with double the ed code/ by law caseload of special ed preschool students, I can say this - schools need the money. Schools need "fixing". More money with the same practices, less money with the same practices, more money for teachers, it won't work until we hit reboot on the entire system.

Wait where was I going here?

Ah yes, interview with the vampire. This district near me is hiring substitutes to cross the line; at first, people with a BA degree and hopefully CBEST, the pre-req to suhstitute teach. Then, honestly, whoever, or just smooshing two hundred kids into the auditorium with one substitute and a movie. They are begging parents to send their kids to school because they cannot afford to lose ADA (attendance funding) even though the kids will be under-taught and under-supervised. Perhaps the subs they hire after the initial bit will no longer have CBEST or experience. They are offering $295 per day in a desperate attempt to hire enough teachers for 21,000 students. This is a district with 80% free or reduced lunch, 60% minority, in a highly gang ridden area, students who do not need a shoddy education or to be babysat by random unqualified people.

The district, as stated, is offering $295 per day for subs willing to cross the picket line. This is the same approxomate pay for a "real" salaried and tenured (and striking) teacher! Usually, subs earn between $90-$125. They cannot pull from the pull of district subs due to conflict of interest.

So. I am making mortal enemies and have an interview to be an on-call, lime crossing sub. My mother, a former teacher, says this is the nail in the coffin to my teaching career. Perhaps it is, and perhaps this is why I cannot seem to keep a job long enough to be tenured. I do not give a **** about politics, political correctedness, etc when the sake of children is at hand. Sure, teachers deserve good pay, smaller class sizes are a godsend (ever taught a class of 38 at risk high schoolers? 36 fifth graders including wards of the state? That alone will make you want smaller class sizes). But it doesnt negate the fact that 21,000 children, mostly "at risk", at the bottom of the social ladder, children who witness violence and hunger daily, need a caring memtor and an education to give them the hope and tools to empower themselves for a better life and better world. When all they have to look forward to is a safe classroom and smiling teacher, how do you think they feel when they are abandoned by their only sense of normalcy, structure, support?

That is why I am willing to cross the line. So many times, I speak up for the children and always suffer the consequences. But i refuse to die someday, knowing I gabe in to my morals and towed the line to appease someone while leaving children in the dust.

Friday, October 24, 2014

weekly links

I will try and do weekly links to interesting articles, with brief commentary. So here goes

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/1117Every school I hsbe worked in has banned personal electronics. This includes Ipods and other musical listening devices. I have secretly experimented and allowed a triwl run of students listening to their music on headphones. I do not have any empirical data, but did notice less behavioral problems, especially among students who usually refuse to do any schooleork. When "plugged in", thry could tune out and listen to music instead of disrupting others. Many students seemed to focus better on the task at hand. Thry could tune out other noises and let thr emotions and beats of the music kind of fuel them. They even begged to listen to music of their choice for exams, but that is VERY forbidden by the testing business for fear of cheating. Oh well. Here is some proof that music helps work productivity. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/11179017/This-is-the-kind-of-music-you-should-listen-to-at-work.html

So, if I ruled education, not only would students "plug in to music", but start school later in the day. I recall leaving the house for high school at 6:30am, earlier if I was to catch the bus. Kids near the attendance boundaries catch the bus at 5:55am. I recall the pain and torture of waking up before dawn. I remember getting my desk rapped with a ruler, the whoosh of air mere nanometers from my face, in an attempt to wake me in AP French IV at 7:10am. And yet schools refuse to start high school later in the day, or even offering a tiered plan; students in sports or working can attend 7-2 and then the rest can attend 9-4, or students get to choose from the two. So many studies prove how biologically, teens don't function at 7am and need their sleep; their bodies working best when going to bed late and rising late. Here is but one study. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/25/pediatricians-late-school-start-time-good-for-teens/14338565/ surely a late start time would benefit children and learning, so of course we do not do it. How else could we profit from academic intervention curriculum and medication to keep children happy, attentive, and alert at the crack of dawn? more about later start times

Somehow this relates to another link, http://online.wsj.com/articles/for-more-teens-arrests-by-police-replace-school-discipline-1413858602 which requires logging in to view buuuuuuut, basically it is about the criminalizing of being a child. How zero tolerance policies and crazy rules make school a literal police state. And yet other schools turn a blind eye to crime, making teachers document months of interventions and feel good chats before escalating things enough to contact the parents or principal. Therefore students either end up ruling the school with misbehavior, or become too frightened to move. Ruling the school in misbehavior begets more interventions and the like, all ways to waste money and get nowhere so you can perpetuate the schools are in trouble idealogy. (Granted it is a real idealogy but no one in power wishes to fix the problem.) Or you can break down the student and use fear to coerce them into compliance.


this blog's not dead

I realize I rarely post but I have not lost my vigor. I am still doing what I do snd will try and post more often.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Slavery Wages and Common Core

I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Slave wages. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Ok, that's a bit sensational but not quite. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Teachers in my state make about $40,000 start pay to $75,000 right before retirement, but of course it varies. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Here I am, an experienced, credentialed teacher. I have a BA, MA, and three credentials. I don't recall the exact fact, but the majority of people being credentialed in California are already credentialed and are seeking further credentials and education for better job outlook, so I am not the anomaly. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

I keep trying to land a job and actually stay long enough for tenure, for no avail. I have massive, scary, overburdening student loans to pay back. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Enough about me and the fact many echo my story. On to my point. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

I have written previously of experienced, pink slipped teachers vying for a position as a teacher's aide, being that a thousand people can apply for a teaching job, they apply to anything and everything. Going from, say, a salary of $45,000, 6 years of college, and $80,000 in loan debt to praying to land a part-time, 15 hours a week job paying $11 an hour. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Remember, school generally only goes for about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 30 weeks minus the random day off for one-day holidays and furloughs. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Maybe they apply to be a substitute teacher, often a job filled with retirees and recent BA holders thinking about going back to get a teaching credential, it is now also a career filled with RIFed teachers (the first to get a sub job). Some places in my state only pay $90 a day, no benefits, and you're lucky to work the 180 days of a school year...it is more like a few days a week at best. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

I recently applied for a few jobs, and discovered aide positions and sub jobs aren't the only wage slavery for teachers. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

One job was "on call" at $19 an hour. That meant I could, at best, work a 30 hour week and at worst...not work for a week. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Another was a full time teacher at a private school, at $11 an hour. You needed credentials and a BA and experience. To send your own child to school there cost more than you'd earn. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Other jobs look great- wow! $45,000 a year! But you must have three specific credentials or sorry, we don't want you. Or, you must be fully bilingual. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

Or, sure, you can make a nice $48,000 but must work 260 days a year for 8 hours plus some nights and weekends. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

How does this all tie into common core? I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

I didn't see such wage slavery until it began to encroach a few years ago, but it was a rarity. Since we adopted common core, such wage slavery is blossoming, mostly at charter schools and private enterprises that can suck on the blood of a "failing" public school. Often, a public school will shut down and a charter pops up in its place. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

As Common Core training, curriculum, technology costs go through the roof and funds plummet, districts and schools must compensate somehow. They HAVE to buy new Common Core textbooks, train staff, provide laptops, pay for assessments, as it is the LAW. So they have to "find" money somewhere, and salary and benefits take up to 80 or 90% of the budget. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

But good luck ever decreasing salaries and benefits without hell to pay. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

So, they raise class size to, say, 38 per class so they can RIF some teachers. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

They allow charters and private enterprise to offer what seems like better programs outside of the public arena. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

They RIF "probationary" (non-tenured, new) teachers like no ones business. These teachers end up with one year job stints every few years, and the district saves money because a person near retirement costs over $70,000 and once they retire, you can fill their position for $40,000. Before tenure and a guaranteed job and salary step and column hike, you RIF them and replace then with a new $40,000 teacher...again and again. You help perpetuate the myth that we have a "critical shortage" of teachers, because the jobs for those hire-fire teachers are posted regularly (even if 1,000 apply). You perpetuate the lie so that universities put out more college grads with teaching credentials and racked up student debt.... Sallie Mae has "her" hands all over Common Core, knowing that the push for everyone to be "college bound" and for "more teachers" will line her pockets. I constantly hear the public bemoan teacher pay- it is either too much or too little. Such a debate won't be one for a simple blog post, but I have a spin-off of interest,

I foresee a day, far too soon, when a single "teacher" oversees 100, 200 students doing computer-based learning at minimum wage. Common Core is so "foolproof" and "cognitive learning based" with prescriptive lessons and self-manageable computer programs, that you don't need to "pay" for talent. You can hire recent grads, desperate for ANY money, willing to work for minimum wage on the desperate hope for the ability to "teach the love of learning". Ha.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SOS save our schools

 My local district is suffering from major financial issues and declining enrollment -a 36% decline in 15 years. In order to save money, they are moving alternative education and pink slipping all non-teaching staff and "sharing" staff with the neighboring school a few hundred yards away. The only part left of alternative ed is a continuation school, the independent study, young parents, and adult ed/GED portions are gone. Our small community has high unemployment and is remote and lacks adequate public transportation, drug use, crime rate, poverty are on the rise. We lack things for teens to do - no malls, the park now costs money, no swimming areas or non-church related activities for teens. And so the district decides to save money by cutting programs for our most at-risk. If the do not fit in the regular model of education, they have no alternatives. No other districts or non-secretarian schools, no charters. Nothing. We claim to have rigor and individualized education and bla bla bla....so, this week I plan on addressing the board of directors to keep the school where it is. I've worked there and know the staff as well and it is a small, Close-knit school that cares. Ridding of non teaching staff, housing the students in a different campus than now, ridding of most of alternative ed as it is...is an injustice. When the district complains of lost ADA, higher percent of drop-outs, and a community with higher crime, poverty, and unemployment, I hope then the district might take notice that tossing our at risk (often our most creative thinkers) to the wolves was indeed a bad idea. Told you so.

grades and accountability

I understand the reasoning behind standardized testing and standards, when the reason is "because grades are subjective". While reading Sinhue Noriega's "If It's Broken Don't Fix it", he talked about how money talks, so passing students regardless of skill is an unwritten law. Additionally, he mentioned how it often seems that all anyone cares about is the letter grade, and I do often find this true - a grade matters more than actual learning of skills or content.
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How can grades both matter and not matter when attendance takes precedence? Well, in the end attendance means money, not grades. Pushing through and passing as many kids as possible could lessen drop outs, increase enrollment and attendance, and please the public -theoretically. And parents want good grades above all else (in general), and will often seek alternative placement if their desires are not met, which means their child leaves the school and thus the school loses money.
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Therefore, passing grades please everyone no matter the cost. I have worked and blogged about a school where 21% is passing (D-) and students can re-take the tests (the only things graded) as much as they want. A child can fail at,say, 10%, retake the test at 21%, and pass. Everyone is happy...parents and students like the passing grade which keeps the students enrolled. I have also experienced other grading issues that border the immoral, illogical, and illegal. And according to Mr. Noriega, I'm not alone.
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In another school I worked in, I had two students, let's call them John and Joe. John was a mainstreamed special ed student and Joe was your regular old class clown. Both ended up with C grades at the end of the semester and both had angry mothers.
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John's mom came in for a conference and was quite irate. Her son got a C-, the first C grade of his lifetime. My school's policy was that no special ed student could get below a C- because they had a modified curriculum and had been given a fair education and thus could not fail. Fair enough. So I gave John a C-. I explained to his mom and John himself that I had never even received on bit of work from him, Not even his name on paper, and that he had never participated in class. I had modified all instruction as per his IEP and offered tutoring and re-takes of quizzes and tests, which he ignored. Therefore he got a C-. John then asked me how that could equate a C- when, "I showed up every day in class. I've always got at least a B for showing up to class." And he was dead serious. His mother was so mad she enrolled him in another school and I was in hot water. I had to provide documentation of all modifications, attempts to re-teach, communications, and work samples to save my own job since he meant a loss in funds. I had the damndest time with work samples since there were none. But in the end I kept my job.
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Then came Joe. A smart student who preferred to clown around, likely bored by school. He did the bare minimum at a mediocre level, so he earned a C.  His mother withdrew  him.  Being a small, close-knit classroom, I often would call home if a student were sick and missed class and I had assumed after not seeing him for a week that something had gone wrong. This is when I learned he had been withdrawn (albeit still on our roll sheets). Suddenly, his mother was yelling at me over his grade, and yet she seemed to be agreeing with me so I was bewildered. "His grade is a  c! He earned a C rightfully. I saw his progress reports and work samples! This is why we left the school!" Yeah...I was totally lost, so I asked her to clarify, especially because we'd built a parent-teacher rapport which is why she was quite knowledgeable about his grade. Come to find out, his transcripts showed a B in my class. She called the school to change it and they said yes, he has a B, it has been reviewed and sonar by I administration as is the policy. So...I know I gave a C but double checked just in case and yep, C
 But there wasn't a thing I could do. I was powerless and yet knew the truth and we had lost a student over something I didn't do. Because grades can mean money, and I bet the B was in hopes to keep Joe in our school.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

the rejected rebel reformers of education

Hello, my name is reject. Or so it seems, according to the education system. I've been ostracised, criticized, and "pink slipped" more times than I can count. And like a sickness, I keep coming back because I believe in what's right, which is exactly what causes others to ridicule, despise, and expel me from their ranks.
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That is right, I am a teacher whose resume is a sad laundry list of failures, disappointments, and bridges burned. My resume reads like a battle plan with lots of losses. It seems everywhere I have taught didn't want me because I refused to prescribe to their damaging factory model of so called education. And yet, I wasn't this crazy martyr, screaming as I pointed out injustices and throwing the verbal punches. I sat back, my stomach in knots, as I saw children crumble before my very eyes as I mumbled out a scripted lesson. I believe that even when I tried to play the game, they could see right through me. Behind the robot-like mask of indifference, they could see the person, full of fire, grimacing at yet another dehumanizing test prep lesson. They were on to me and had to make me their enemy. Even the kids were on to me, asking why I didn't yell at them or try to scare and shame them into performing.
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These feelings recently came back to me as I read a great, highly recommended book by Sinhue Noriega, "If it's Broken Don't Fix it". I was left spellbound, nodding my head, angry at the injustices it seems so few see or know or care to admit.  This is why they keep happening. I wanted to find Mr. Noriega and praise him beyond comprehension, for "getting it".
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I want this quote from his books, made into t-shirts, bumper stickers, plastered onto signs and billboards. I want to shout it from the hilltops because it so represents not just me and my trials and tribulations, but the system as a whole.

"I have often found that those who take major strides towards reform quickly find adversity descending upon them. I've seen too many programs begin to make a difference, then be shut down because they caused too many waves. Teachers and administrators who chose to implement high ideals, philosophies, and practices, often find they become the target in a system that never intended to have better teaching practices put into action. These dreamers stand alone, in a world of challenge, on the sword's edge of employment because they believe in something greater than the outcome of a test."
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A few months back, I applied to be a vice principal of a charter school in Oakland, CA. If you don't know, Oakland is in urban decay, with incredibly high crime and poverty rates, the  Detroit of the West Coast if you will. The school toted social justice, creating life long learners and innovators for the 21st century,  wanting To reverse the injustices of race and poverty serving as cultural and success-based barriers. I was so very excited to apply to a school that seemed to align to my philosophy of education. I spent all day writing an essay they, when I was done, left me full of energy, as if to say, "yes! I can and will make a difference! I am awesome!". I wrote about education opening minds and changing the world. I  wrote about challenging social barriers and how we could empower the students and community to become the next generation of thinkers and doers. (I wish I could find my letter in my pile of documents as, not to toot my own horn, but it was that good.)  I thought for sure I had the job, because my essay reflected their mission statement. I never even heard back in any way and the position has since been filled.

Because, schools talk the talk but don't walk the walk. They want someone who blindly and robotically delivers  corporate-developed droll lessons that keep the children in line. They want kids to attend solely for money. Everything they do is for dollar signs and hidden agendas.


 The children...they don't even come last because that would  assume they were of some priority. I keep trying to tow the line to have a paycheck to support my family. I keep trying to find places that have children as the priority. I keep trying to make a difference, only to continually fail and be labeled a failure in a system that doesn't want me. A system that doesn't even factor children into the equation. But I refuse to go quietly into the night.