Saturday, October 15, 2011

Professional Development

I am writing this at 4 in the morning.  I have been rolling options over and over in my head.  I read an article in Oprah magazine about a teacher who quit her job and started raising alpacas.  I can do that!  HOA probably wouldn't be down with that.  I like to write.  Maybe someday I will get published and make millions of dollars like that vampire lady.  Not bloody likely.   I don't know, maybe I should apply at McDonald's.  Meh, too many of my students work there.  Circle K?  They know me there. Couldn't afford a babysitter on that salary.  So, teaching?  Can I hang in there?

But, geeze, I really hate my job.  Really, really hate it.

My teaching story is the same as just about every other teacher out there. I became a teacher because I love working with young adults.  I wanted to open worlds of possibility for them by teaching them about great literature and making them great thinkers.  I wanted to help kids who struggle and  provide opportunities for them to succeed. I wanted to prepare them to be contributing members of society.

This is what my job really is.

1)  A big pile of "No Child Left Behind" bullshit.

We all hear the complaints of too much testing and teaching to the test, but sometimes I don't think the general population knows some of the other fall out generated by the "No Child Left Behind" policies.

Here is a story that is absolutely gut wrenching.  I know someone that teaches for a school somewhere that told me about some student she had.  This little guy lived in the women's shelter with his mom.  Obviously life has not been smooth for him.  My friend noticed that he was barely able to read.  When she went to the higher-ups and ask what she should do, was there any help they could get for this child, the answer was, "no."  His testing scores were so far below the passing mark that if they spent the extra resources helping him, he would still not likely pass.  Resources are dedicated to those students who are "approaching" because if students move from "approaches" to "meets" it will reflect positively on the school's rating.  You don't get points for kids who move from "unable to read and therefor will become a high school drop-out, so sign me up for the state penitentiary, I'm on my way!" " to "literate and now have a glimmer of hope"

Because schools get dinged for things like attendance and students not graduating on time, students get turned away from public schools.  The majority of the students at the charter high school I currently teach at cannot attend the regular high schools.  The schools turn students away if they are credit deficient and not on track to graduate on time.  The student has the option to enroll in the district's alternative school (a.k.a. prison prep),  find another school out of district, or drop-out.

You think teachers getting together and having answer changing parties on state tests is immoral?  It is just the tip of the ice burg when high stakes policies are made by people who have no real comprehension of  what goes on in a classroom.

2) Demands, State Mandates, District Demands, Administration Demands, and I am supposed to do what?  Are you effing kidding me?

Laws that sound good in congresses, voter boxes, political campaigns and even Department of Education boardrooms suck monkey balls when actually applied to educational practices. Here is an example.

I just attended a 3 day workshop of SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) training.  I learned that Prop 203 passed by voters in Arizona states that all children in public schools shall be taught English as rapidly and effectively as possible. Yup, kids should learn English.

The proposition also states English learners shall be educated through SEI during a temporary transition period not intended to exceed one year.  Wait, wha?  You want kids who don't speak English to be proficient in one year?  Um, okay?

So, great idea voters.   How do we implement it?  Two other House Bills are passed which basically led to this:  Students are to have 4 hours per day of Language Education, 1 hour of Oral English, 1 hour of Grammar, 1 hour of Writing and 1 hour of Reading.  Teachers cannot stray from the time allocations.  Teachers must document their time and learning objectives.  Teachers must follow ELP (English Language Proficiency) Standards.  All proper forms will document correctly the implementation of the State and Federal Laws.  Monitors from the Office of English Language Acquisition will make routine visits and monitor data to determine compliance.

Okay, whine, whine, whine. So you have to do a little extra paper work.  It is all for the benefit of the kids anyway.  Well, if you have a SEI teacher and students are removed from the mainstream classes this seems feasible  But what if you only have a handful of ELLs (English Language Learners)?  The ELLs are put on a documented plan showing how the 4 hours will be met in the mainstream classes.  Districts love this because then they don't have to hire a separate SEI teacher.  So now, the regular ed teacher has to incorporate 4 hours of language acquisition for a handful of students at the same time she is teaching 30 other kids.   She also has to document what she is doing in the correct manner including a language objective tied to the ELP standards. This on top of lesson plans aligned to the state standards, making sure standards, objectives, and guiding questions are visible, creating engaging activities that move up Bloom's taxonomy, reviewing test data and creating interventions for low performing students, differentiating instruction to meet the needs of special education and honors students, accommodating special needs, grading papers, lunch duty, before and after school duty, communicating with parents, attending staff meetings. You have 1 hour during your day for prep time.  What is the problem?

All these laws with all their requirements land squarely on the overburdened backs of frazzled, highly caffeinated and overwhelmingly disillusioned teachers. 

Kids are up, more later.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Looking on the Bright Side. . . or More Appropriately the Dry Side.

I realize that at times I can come across as rather pessimistic about things. So, in the spirit of being more positive, some thank you notes.

First, I would like to thank all of the people involved in the designing, producing, marketing, purchasing and installing of my bathroom sink. Because it does not have a relief drain, I have had two exciting instances of bathroom flooding. You see I have a little monkey boy who enjoys fiddling with things. He is especially fond of messing with the drain stopper when he washes his hands. He is also 4. Attention deficit is not a disorder, it is a way of life, so he forgets to shut the water off. Stopped up drain + running faucet + no relief drain = a creative twist on my daily workout routine and some quiet time to hork down an entire carton of Ben and Jerry's while the 4 year old spends the rest of the afternoon in the corner. Thank you!

Thank you, cement sub floor for being able to hold up to 2 inches of standing water. I know the wood sub floor in my last house just wouldn't have handled the situation well.

Thank you, wet vac. You have not been the time saver in the kitchen that I thought you would be, but you are awesome at times like this. Even on the carpet, you were fantastic sucking up nearly 3 gallons water there alone.

Thank you flood waters for cleaning my bathroom floor. It was pretty bad.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wizard Words of Wizdom

My family recently was in charge of our family reunion. By"my family" I mean my mom and her sisters and cousins. I mostly just attended. Those of you who aren't in my family may think, "Meh, so you plan a dinner and sit around with a bunch of old boring people." Oh, contraire my little friends. My family reunion rocks. Over 200 people attend and we are not boring, we have Irish ancestry. Three days of partying and fighting and more partying ensue.

Our family reunions are themed and we dress up. This year the theme was Wizard of Oz.

I chose an appropriate costume for my personality, a witch with very awesome red shoes.

Here's the kiddos. From left to right--Nephew-Horse of a different color, Drama Queen--Dorothy, Mini Knievel--last minute lollypop guild, Monkey Boy--Lion.

My hubby, not so keen on dressing up and thinking, "Yuppers, I married into crazyville. This should have been my first clue that perhaps she was just pretending to be normal before we got married. Now, look what I live with!"

And Drama Queen's 2nd costume. I, of course, did not make this. My mom did.

Isn't she amazing!!!

As part of the activities, I played Professor Marvel-a (that's the girl version). I told fortunes with my "genuine, magic, authentic crystal used by the priests of Isis and Osiris in the days of the pharoahs of Egypt." I wrote up six "fortunes" based on the movie. I swear if we all lived according to The Wizard of Oz we would all lead happy and amazing lives!

1. Along the yellow brick road of life you will have many challenges. You may have to dodge wormy apples and fireballs. Witches will try to take your dog and your really cute shoes. At times you may just be too tired to go on. Don't be discouraged. Remember you are smarter, braver and have more heart than you give yourself credit for. Just stay on the right path and you will reach your destination.

2. Running away from your problems never solves anything. You can never find a place where you won't get into any trouble. It doesn't exist. The storms of life will always come and when they do, especially the whoppers, you better get your butt home and into the storm cellar with the people who love you. Only they can make the troubles melt like lemon drops.

3. You will run into bad witches in your life, but even when you have a witch mad at you, you will have loyal friends who will say, "I'm not afraid of witches!" and they will stand beside you as you dodge the witches fireballs. Just have courage and remember the most wicked witches are probably covering up their weaknesses. It may just take a little water to make them melt into a big puddle of witch goo.

4. Whether you are good or bad people can see it and read it in your face. You can't hide what you truly are. Kindness and generosity will draw friends to you. The kindness you give will always be returned. Your friends will be willing to brave spooks and flying monkeys to rescue you. Bad deeds will be returned in kind as well. Only bad witches are ugly.

5. When seeking help in reaching your goals, be careful who you trust. Sometimes those who seem to have the answers are not what they appear to be. Those who proclaim their greatness the loudest are often the smallest. The wizard was just a man behind the curtain. You always have the power within you to make your wishes come true.

6. When you feel you are missing something in your life. Don't go searching beyond your own back yard. If you do go looking elsewhere in the world, you may open the door to a life of color and adventure, but you will soon realize it is nothing without those who love you. Remember, there is no place like home.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beware the Sleeping Feminist, For When She Wakes . . .

So, in the last post I hypothesized there may be an etymological connection between Hysteria and Hysterectomy. I thought I was just being hysterically funny, but the sad truth is the words are related on the great Greek/Latin family tree. (Thanks JB for prompting me to research that further)

Hysteria, which is "a mental disorder characterized by emotional excitability etc. without an organic cause" comes from the Latin Hystericus or from the Ancient Greek Hysterikos which means suffering in the uterus. (Wiktionary)

Therefore, because I am a woman with a uterus, I have a mental disorder. Isn't that nice.

Being the closet feminist that I am, I feel it necessary to coin my own word.

Phallustia- a mental disorder characterized by the delusion that one is omniscient, all knowing, and of course, always has the correct and logical solution to any dilemma. Comes from the Ancient Greek Phallos which means dick.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pee Hole

I'm not really sure how the other English Teacher at my school and I ended up in this conversation with students about periods and other slightly inappropriate girl stuff, but there we were discussing our Va-jay-jays with a pack of 16 year old girls.

So the other teacher says, "I don't have a period anymore, thank goodness. I had a hysterectomy" (funny that word kind of sounds like hysteria. Is a hysterectomy when they surgically remove your hysteria? Makes sense.)

So anyway,

16 year old student gives her a confused look. She obviously doesn't know what a hysterectomy is.

Other Teacher clarifies: They took out my uterus.

16 year old student with confused, disgusted, terror in her eyes: How do you pee!?!?!

The surgically non-hysteric teacher and I look at each other with confused amusement.

Me: Um, sweetie, those things aren't connected. Did you miss that day of 5th grade?

16 year old: I had my gallbladder removed and I can still pee.

Me: Wow.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Epiphany a la Moby-Dick

I am reading Moby-Dick. So far it's mucho awesomo. I am not very far into it as I only have time to read when I can catch a private moment in a locked bathroom. Ishmael has not yet set sail and is at a church listening to a sermon given by an old whaler turned preacher. The sermon is about Jonah of course and this is what the preacher said:

"As with all sinners among men, the sin of this son of Amittai (Jonah) was in his willful disobedience of the command of God--never mind now what that command was, or how conveyed--which he found a hard command. But all things that God would have us do are hard for us to do--remember that--and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists."

So as a mom, this is my take.

Do your ears work? Are they just glued on? This isn't about what you want to do, just listen! Why? Because I am The God and I said so, that's why!

And so, just as the "why" is often beyond my children's comprehension so it is with us. And sometimes the why doesn't really matter at all, sometimes ya just need to do what is asked. Who knows, maybe God, like every parent, just needs us to go do something quiet and safe for a minute because he has a headache and needs to sit down and enjoy some Ben and Jerry's.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Frogs Must Lead Frustrating Lives

We were trying to get our brood out the door and into the car. Most frustrating task of parenthood, right up there with checking out at the supermarket. Whoever thought it was a good idea to fill the checkout isle with candy and toys should be put in front of a firing squad.

I digress. Anyway, Monkey Boy did not want to put pants on, put shoes on or leave the couch. He wanted to watch Dora.

He was so angry he could no longer form coherent requests. He shouted in frustration, "DO DAMMIT!" and stormed away from his barely able to control their snickers parents.

In order to exonerate himself of any blame, my husband asked MB about his choice of words Yes, I am obviously the parent who is responsible for enriching my children's vocabulary with swears.

Hubby asked, "Who says Dammit?"

Monkey Boy replied, "Frogs."

I guess I am off the hook for this one!