Friday, January 25, 2013

A moment of fear

This week started out a orml week in the trenches of the classroom, and then.... The overcom announces, "lock down. Immediately". I freeze in my tracks and think, this was not in the agenda, no word was said, this must be REAL. I have 38 students, myself, my unborn child to protect. And we're just sitting ducks in a "shoot here, crazies, please" unprotected location. I ensure the door is locked and a student shuts off the lights. I look at the door, with a tall window next to it, facing the hallway. A bullet could easily break the glass and hit a student. The glass could shatter and if the murderer is somewhat slim, they could walk right on in and kill us all. I look to the opposite wall, a wall entirely of windows facing the outside, the school entrance. Again, a bullet could pierce these windows. An entire wall as a vantage point for who to murder. Sure. We scoot to the front, perdendicular to the window-wall, hunker down, and stay silent. You know, so the killer doesn't know we're here. It will all be okay. Except....if someone is entering the school grounds during school hours, seeing cars and busses and a domino effect of lights switching off, I think they can figure out, hmm, there are children inside. Even a dumb murderer, after a casual glance in the window (missing the dark huddled masses) would eventually think, hmm it's a school day, the kids are here.

Or the murderer could think, hmm, let's just shoot through the long window and walk on into the classroom and massacre everyone. Let's angle the gun through the window wall and empty a spray of gunfire towards the floor, there are people there. Simple geometry dictates that merely pulling the blinds on the windows and hunkering down, you are still a target. Just like in pool, any part of the pool table is reachable with simple geometry. Same goes for a classroom.

So I stood there, ushering my students towards one side of the room, thinking, where do I hide? From the left, we're all targets and from the right, shoot, climb in, we're dead. There is no where to run or hide. It can take the police five, ten, fiftenn minutes to get here. Add the fact there are probably 60 classrooms, and the murderer, the survivors, the deceased, could be anywhere. It could take the police minutes to stop the violence once on campus, as they have to find the violence.

It reminds me of the duck and cover nuclear bomb drills. Like ducking and covering will save you from radiation and the incinerating blast. Like crouching against a wall, in a gun-free unrpotected zone, with huge picture windows, will protect you from death in a mass shooting.

It's all to make people feel secure, but it is anything but security. As I froze in fear, I thought, who will die? Will it be a classrooom down the hall, or will it be mine? Who will be targeted? Will I survive? Why can't I protect my 38 students, self, and unprotected baby? Why must I come here and have such thoughts and legitimate fears?

It was a drill. An unanounced cruel joke of sorts, where I sat in prayer, asking for life, thinking God it happened. My fears came true. I didn't deserve this. Our students don't deserve this. Removing guns or making gun free zones will not stop the violence of sick individuals. Protection, real, not "oh duck down kiddos" will be our saving grace.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Protecting Valuables

I could go on and on about gun control, the Sandy Hook massacre, etc. But I won't. All I will say is this: Why are our children, our most valuable things, NOT protected? After the massacre, guess what? Schools are NO MORE secure or protected. That is, unless you go to the same school as the President's children, which has 11 armed guards and did before his children were there. You know, we can protect the top 1% elite. Schools have had, and have, in place a "lockdown" system for a gunman on campus. Get inside the classroom, lock your doors, hunker down. About as effective as hiding under your desks in a nuclear disaster drill. Sure, having armed guards at schools makes them prison-like. Newsflash, they are already prison-like. Would I feel more secure if the school I worked at was secure, with armed guards or teachers or janitors or whatever? Yes yes and more yes. Anyone who decides not to go in the front door can go in a side door, knocking until someone lets them in. And if they are armed, I don't think anyone is going to ask for their student id. If the crazy person walks into the main office and just rids of the secretary, they have free reign of the school. Sure, society is ill and we have crazies and bla bla bla. I completely agree, but you cannot change society overnight. With a prevalent rap and gang culture, no rights of passage, broken homes, lack of morals, etc etc....we aren't going to have a utopia any time soon. When education, family values, and being a decent human being are "uncool", it doesn't help. Besides, you never can have a utopian society. Sure we can help the entally ill much better than we have. We can do many things to lesson a propensity for violence, but we can never eradicate it. And lessening it takes years. Decades. Centureis. Protecting our children takes seconds. Let's protect them, and work on bettering society.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Failing Students and Giving Them High Self Esteem. And More.

There is a school, remaining anonymous. An inner-city school, with a high percentage of minority, English-learner, and poverty-stricken children. But many pass their classes and get a rather high GPA. Adn they feel competent, proud, informed. But they are being handicapped, abused, lied to. How? Well, first, a bit of a tangent diverging yet connecting to the topic at hand. Grading. Grading is often claimed to be subjective, one person's A is another's C. Thati s part of what was the drive for NCLB, accountability, standards, and the test-till-death culture. To prove how a child is doing and what they know. But of course, grades still exiist within this NCLB culture. Students still get an A, B, C... and now supposedly an A really means whatever an A means, in all grades and states. Thrre is the argument to leiminate grading and just do rubrics or evaluations, or just do assessments and standardized testing. There is an argument that standard grading is wrong. I won't go into each in depth but most of us think of a grading scale and grades as something similar to this: A- 90-100% correct B- 80-89% correct C- 70-79% correct D- 60-69% correct F- anything below 60%, failing. Some schools and colleges go as far as to null and void Ds- Ds are essentially failing grades. However, to connect back in, this certain school and probably others, have developed grading scale based on standardized testing. Some more charts here to explain. When your chil takes their NCLB exams, they get a "grade", being one of these... Advanced Proficient Basic Below Basic Far Below Basic One thinks of these in their mind, often, as A,B,C,D,f. Add in some tricky statistics and psychometrics and bla bla bla, a Proficient score on one exam does not always equal proficient on the next. Meaning if a child gets 83% correct on two exams, they might get a "proficient" grade on one, "advanced" on the the other. But to simplify and shave off some points, rounding and the like, you can get a ballpark figure of scores that well ahem can vary widely but is nice to at least look at and consider. Advanced= 80-100% Proficient=60-79.99% Basic= 40%-59.99% Below Basic= 20%-39.99% Far Below Basic= 0-19.99% correct Remember these figures are approximat and vary. By a lot. A statistical snafu of variance. But let's just go with what we have here. So with NCLB the goal is for 100% of children to be proficient or above in all subjects. 60% or above. That sounds like, "heck we expect all kids to get 60% or above? Geez, how easy!" but again add in psychometrics and trick questions, weighted items, incorrect items that don't get thrown out, bla bla bla, and the high stakes environment of a test, and the fact tests only test a certain way of thinkign and certain bits of information...and 60 is....not bad. Ok. So I keep diverging from my original point. At this school, their grades are.... A= 80-100% B= 60-79.99% C- 40-59.99% D= 20-39.99% F= 0-19.99% So, this school is sending D- students into the workforce, military, college, world. And it isn't like only 3% are D students. In some courses, D students are the majority. And add in a 3.0 student, "honor roll", "accceptable GPA for college" is something like a proficiency of maybe 55%. Not a "3,0" I am used to, hovering around 80%, a B. These students go into the world thinking, hey, I'm smart! I passed high school! I mean, with all Ds but it is passing. I passed! I'm ready for the world! But does the world consider 20% "passing"? If a doctor only does 20% of his work, what will happen? A oonstructino worker? Marine? Bus driver? Waitress? What will happen? THey will not "pass" and be sorely mistaken that they are competent. The world does not accept a 20% job. Yet since they "passed" high school, they have a complex...they have a diploma, they passed high school, they are skilled, competent, intelligent, ready for the world! To add to the problem, only assessments are graded. And, only certain assessments, so maybe 5 things a semsester per clss. So thy can slack off for an entire month, then pass a test at 20%, and slack off again, doing absolutely NOTHING, guess on a test, get 20%...and yep, pass the class. Giving less htat 20% effort and when "performing" doing only 20% and they pass. That means the waitress or doctor or construction worker etc would just sit and surf facebook for 40 hours a week, for four weeks, until they were told they were being evaluated, the big boss is coming in, etc. Then they'd swtich to "work mode" and serve 20% of the customers, operate on 20% of patients, or build all the buildings that day but really only do 20%...nailing only some nails in. Disaster. And, yes there's one more and, they can pass the class with an A or B if they get proficent or above on their NCLB exam. The students twst in a classroom with a teacher that does not teach their grade a teacher that barely knows them. They can easily cheat via their phones or the old fashioned lookie-lou and it likely will get passed by. So if half the class cheats off the smart kid, half the class passes. Even if thye didn't take a sinle prior exam or do a single bit of work. And guess what? This school is NOT alone. It remains anonymous but I alone know of TWO schools in sepearate districts that follow this entire bizarre grading and testing system. Anyone else find this to be maddening, discriminating, unfair, wrong? P.S. please excuse any typos, my laptop is on its last leg and word/typing programs do not work, and blogger is in survival mode without any buttons, functions, spell check, etc. Just thought I'd explain myself.