Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Thursday, April 28, 2005

I Met Barbara Kerr.....

Last night at our local Uniserv WHO Awards, Recognize building reps and negotiators dinner at the local country club, I had the opportunity to meet CTA President Barbara Kerr. She looks just like her picture that is published in CALIFORNIA EDUCATOR. She was seated at a special table reserved for special guests, all of whom had to eat facing the crowd. Anyhow, I had my letter and several copies of blog postings from other California teachers that were 'upset' in some manner over her/CTA's proposed $180 dues increase or their lack of democracy. (UkiahcoachBrown, RightontheleftCoast, EdWonk and myself, Polski3).

I ambled over to her table and introduced myself as a long-time teacher, and stated that I had a letter containing several grievances against CTA and its employees. She was polite and indicated that she would verbally like to hear some of my concerns. I began with my concern about CTA dictating to its locals what could and could not be in their local bylaws. She said that, Yes, CTA does have some things that can and cannot be in the bylaws of their local affiliates. Here is part of my letter to her:

Dear President Kerr,

I am writing to you to express some of my disappointments and frustrations regarding CTA and its officials.
To begin, I would like to ask you why CTA is dictating to what can and cannot be in the bylaws of a local CTA Affiliate? Several years ago, there was a long, negative contract negotiations between the El Centro (Elem) Teacher’s Association and the governing board of the El Centro (Elem.) School District. ECETA officers were not forthcoming in keeping its members informed about what was going on. Using our bylaws that existed at that time, members of ECETA circulated a petition and forced its own officers to hold a meeting to discuss the state of negotiations. This happened twice, and ECETA chief negotiator, Ernie Bristow and ECETA President Bruce Roberts were furious at this 'insubordination' to their 'power'. After the contract was settled, Ernie Bristow retired from teaching and immediately became the local Uniserve Director. One of the first things he did was to inform ECETA that "our Bylaws were out of compliance with CTA directives" and we HAD to change them to meet the criteria specified by CTA. I REPEATEDLY ASKED MR. BRISTOW TO SHOW ME THIS LETTER / DIRECTIVE FROM CTA. He refused to ever share this letter or directive from CTA with me.
So, via a committee that included myself, Bruce Roberts and Ernie Bristow, the Bylaws of the ECETA were changed. The new bylaws now make it nearly impossible for members of ECETA to petition their leaders for a meeting to discuss a subject of concern of ECETA members, the officers are now elected for a much longer term of office and there were changes to make it harder to amend the bylaws. Yes, I complained and argued about many of these proposed changes, but Uniserve Director Bristow kept up his mantra, "CTA said we have to do this!" I tried to include a number of additions to these proposed new bylaws such as inclusion of secure, monitored voting for local elections, making negotiators an elected position and allowing for adequate notification of ALL schools of scheduled ECETA meetings. These additions to these proposed bylaws were quickly 'poo-pooed' and tossed out by Misters Roberts and Bristow. In short, these new bylaws make ECETA a much less democratic organization, make it much more difficult for members to make changes and discourages participation by its members. Yes, to my disgust, these new bylaws were approved in a very lightly attended ECETA meeting; approved without even being able to read, study or debate the new bylaws. Again I ask, “Why is CTA dictating to its locals what can and cannot be in our bylaws?"
Mrs. Kerr seemed concerned to hear this. I will know the extent of her concern when I get a response from her or one of her many, many minions.

I also wrote to her:
" Secondly, I really wish CTA would stop their endorsement of candidates for political office. In my opinion, this does more harm than good. It makes CTA look like an arm of the Democratic Party, because 98% of its endorsements are for Democratic Party candidates. I believe CTA should strive to work with ALL people that are elected to higher public office, be it the Governor, the State Senators or the members of the State Assembly, for the benefit of CTA members. ( FYI, I am not a registered or active member of any political party ). Quit giving these pandering politicians union money and hopefully, this may encourage them to do what is right without being paid for it."

I also mentioned, both verbally and in my letter, that I wished CTA and NEA were truly democratic organizations who allowed their members to actually be able to cast a vote for their state and national officers.

I ended with my thanks to her for being here this evening, and that I wished the President of CTA would come by sometime to talk to the teachers, not just the Uniserv Rep and his special invitees or the local officers. I mentioned that years ago, when I taught in Arizona, AEA President Dennis Van Roeckle (currently NEA V.P.), made the effort to come way up to where I/We were in the N.E. corner of Arizona to talk to the teachers and how we appreciated his visit with us. (we were about a seven hour, one way, drive from Phoenix.)

Special for this evening, I made up a button; it was a red circle with a red slash through the words "Democracy, CTA - NEA". While standing in line to get the mostly bland dinner buffet that was available, a well-dressed older lady ahead of me kept turning around and glancing at me. Finally, she said to me, "IF I may, why are you wearing that button?" I looked at her and replied, "When I can cast my single vote for who is President of my State Union and President of NEA, then I believe I can take it (the button) off." She kinda nodded, and with what I interpret as a slightly 'sour'or 'annoyed' look on her face, she turned away. I later found out that she was the Director of CTA, Diana Jones.

Anyhow, CTA President Barbara Kerr got to hear from me. I really hope she responds. I will let readers of my blog know if I hear anything back from CTA or if I get a visit from some goons in the middle of the night.....oh, but this isn't that kind of Union, is it?

I also found out last night that I am going to LA for the NEA Convention. Unfortunately, I was not elected. I get to go because I applied and the numbers of California teachers who are needed did not surpass the number who applied, so I do not get the pleasure of being elected by my fellow teachers to represent them at this grand, lovy, socialistic affair.

As always, thanks for reading my blog. I Welcome Your Comments !

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I KNEW This.....Group Work Doesn't Work

In a post from an educator in the Land Down Under, Education Watch brings us this: (Also linked via Joann Jacobs)


This article states something that I have believed all along. That students seated in groups do not work well in many classroom situations. The article says:

"Pupils work harder and are less disruptive if they sit in rows rather than in groups around tables" ..... children spent up to twice as long concentrating on their work when seated in rows and teachers found it easier to praise them and to refrain from disapproval."

Another study made at a school for children with behavioral difficulties found that on task time doubled in rows and disruptions were reduced to a third of their former frequency.

EDUCATION WATCH noted that the article was originally from the "Times Educational Supplement", reprinted in the "Sydney Morning Herald", Feb. 16th., 1982 p. 12.

I generally do not like group work in class. Not much gets done. In the Junior High, too many students, IMO, do not have the self-discipline necessary to avoid the playing around, non-topic chatter and wasting time that group seating seems to promote. And, when it comes to taking tests and quizzes, if students are clustered at tables of four or five students, too many of them will cheat on their quiz/test by copying answers from their tablemates.

Does this mean I do not do group work? No. I usually assign at least three group projects per year. For the first one, usually close to the beginning of the school year, the kids get to pick their partners. This usually does not work well for the majority of my students, because they are making bad decisions on with whom to work and their project grades reflect it. I view this as more of a lesson on making choices than the academic learning that goes with the project and, purposefully, I make it a class activity that will not kill anyone's grades due to really screwing up this one activity. From then on, I usually pick the groups and depending on the individual students involved, will let them work outside the class with students (friends) that are in other class periods. Parents have been supportive of this method over the years and for those parents who complain about the grade their child earns on their first group project, agree with me about the decision making aspect of the project and often will request that their child NOT be allowed to work with "those other kids" in the future.

unfortunately, it is the parents of these "other" kids that are rarely in the picture. But that is another post.

I also will have my students work in pairs or threes for some activities, such as 'Think - Write - Pair - Share' activities or working on reading comprehension (reciprocal Teaching). Those partnerships are usually 'assigned' in that their partner is someone whom they sit near.

OK, enough blogging for now. I am procrastinating grading Tests. You teachers out there know HOW that is. Next week is out first three days (Tues. Wed. and Thur.) of State Testing (CAT, CST's) and short class periods. Ugggh.

Thanks for reading my blog. I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS !

Teacher 2 Teacher: tips from some other Teacher blogs I've recently read....

The first teacher to teacher tip I'd like to share comes from "MzSmlph" who is teaching in a school someplace in the south. Her great tip is one that takes so little effort, but can make such a difference. MzSmlph writes: "Now here's the key to Band-Aids in the classroom. New teachers, if you're reading this, take note. Instead of handing the student the unopened Band-Aid and allowing him to apply it himself, I find that opening a Band-Aid and lovingly applying it to even the most trivial of wounds can make a world of difference to a student.."
Her blog can be read at http://www.mzsmlph.com Polski3 suggests you check it out.

Our second tip deals with the ever present issue for teachers of classroom discipline, behavior expectations and how do we deal with them. On April 19, Coach Brown, a Senior Econ and Government teacher in Ukiah, CA., models this bit of classroom management for us as he writes:

"The problem of the day was 1st period Intro. Three boys sit together and are basically, well, teenage boys. Today, I asked them a number of times during instructions to relax and calm down. They kept playing grab ass (not literally, a term), making faces and finally, throwing a paper airplane. My response was simple.
"Last warning, knock it off or your moving."

"What?? What did we do, huh?? It's not like we are doing anything."

That is my signal that these boys are looking for an argument. Most students will pipe down because they realize that my final warning means "It is over". So I decided to act.

"Out the door, now. Wait for me outside." I said it very calmly. I wasn't mad (as I might have been a year ago). It was business, not personal. They trudged outside, muttering that I was overreacting and was being unfair. I then continued with the instructions and lesson. I left them out there.......for 25 minutes. I checked every 5 minutes through my window to make sure they didn't bolt. They didn't. When I was down with my lesson (and with 5 minutes left in class), I went outside and announced to them.
"From now on you will do exactly as I tell you. You are in my classroom and you will follow my rules. Failure to do so will result in your removal from my classroom, loss of points, and a possible problem for your graduation (my class is required). I will answer none of your questions."
The really smart-assed one asked, "Isn't this a democracy?".
And the conversation ended. They came into the room, got the assignment from peers, and then left with the bell. They were not happy and shouted it in the hall on their way out. Later at lunch, one of their girlfriends came up to me and said, "There are students that hate you because you are so mean." It really didn't phase me as much as it might have last year. Why? Because this summer I had at least 12-15 past students that I ran into tell me that they appreciated my class and that they actually learned something. It was hard, but it was more like college than most of high school. So it didn't bother me that students were pissed that I wouldn't take Middle School crap. I bothered me that I had to be a Middle School teacher for a period, but sometimes you have to do that."

Editors Note: As Coach Brown said, "ITS BUSINESS, NOT PERSONAL". There is much truth to this. Polski3 suggests you check out Coach Brown's blog at

Thanks for Reading my Blog.....well, the Teacher to Teacher Tips I put up on my blog anyhow. Go read those blogs! As always, I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS !

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bulletin Boards and Wall Space: Teacher Tips

Do you put up bulletin boards or use the wall space in your classroom ? In the junior high where I teach, it is pretty much expected. But in visiting other classrooms on occasion, I notice the elementary classrooms often use just about every available inch of any wall space, and in some high school classrooms, there is almost nothing up on the walls. I always thought having materials related to the class or classes taught in that room was something expected and necessary. In my classroom, I try to use my wall space to display visual materials for the unit we are currently studying.

So, where does this visual material come from? On my walls, there are usually a smorgasbord of commercially produced posters, homemade posters and copies of student works from past years of teaching the unit. Teachers can spend a lot of their own money buying bulletin board material for their classrooms. Here's a tip for you new / beginning teachers out there: Borrow stuff from veteran colleagues and MAKE YOUR OWN. When I began teaching full-time and had my own classroom, I did not have much to put up on the walls or much money to buy such stuff. But, the school where I taught had many old, 'discarded' or damaged history and science textbooks that were not being used and were eventually going to get thrown away. Many of these books had great color pictures that could be clipped out, glued onto construction paper and laminated to produce posters. They were not as fancy at the professionally produced ones, but they were functional and my students could learn from them. When I was teaching life science, I used to include questions from the wall displays on rotating stations activities. I haven't done it as often in my history classes, but a rotating station activity using desks for some stations and the wall displays works well (and helps spread the kids out a bit more).

Many of these old, damaged, discards books also had short, informative sections that were useful for using with kids when they had finished their work and needed something else to do that was both educational and worth a few points extra credit (kind of like the SRA cards I have access to when I was in elementary school....they had a couple of paragraphs to read and several questions to answer; a great short reading comprehension activity). Over the years, I have also found some great 'black and white' maps that work well in creating map activities for my students (because they reproduce so well on the photocopier or Rizo machines).

I have also found it useful to collect some of the chapters from old textbooks to use for either 'lower ability' or 'higher ability' students. There is a use for old, damaged or discards textbooks. Do any of you have any other ideas for using old, damaged or discarded textbooks ? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Thanks for reading my blog! I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS !

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Peek at the Future

Last week, I taught a short lesson about the Spanish Colonial Missions and settlements at the Yuma Crossing in 1780-81. Overall, it went well. It was very interesting and disturbing work with these kids in a learning environment. It was one of my sons fourth grade class.

For the most part, the students were not that different than my own seventh graders. The lesson was divided into two basic parts, short lecture with some map work and a artifacts lab type activity. Some students were busy trying to write down every word of the notes that were written on the board, others took no notes. Most correctly filled in their maps, a few ended up with incomplete maps. During this time, several students had to be told several times to stop certain pestering behaviors and one student was even reassigned to sit on the floor next to the teachers desk and not allowed to participate any further. For the artifact lab part, some of these fourth graders excitedly began to examine each 'artifact' and work on their artifact lab sheet. Others looked over the artifacts and did very little of the lab sheet. Their overall reaction to the closing segment, a quick write, was almost exactly like my seventh graders; ahhhhh. Many of their answers were errierly identical to some of the crappy answers I see on some of my students papers: "We learned about their food". A real lack of demonstration of what they have learned, which I put down to a lack of (1) thinking about it (2) A lack of learning what they should have learned and (3) Not wanting to work.

The overall afternoon, I believe, was successful. I was someone new teaching those students something they didn't know, and as we all know, doing something different than the usual can be a nice change of pace. The Fourth Grade teacher wants me to do another lesson in about a month or so, my "gold mining, buying supplies with gold" activity using chocolate chip cookies (the chocolate chips are the 'gold' and kids have to did the gold outta the 'rock' using toothpicks. They then take their 'gold' in to be weighed and buy supplies from a list of food items, clothing and supplies that would be found in a California Gold Rush era mining camp/town. One variant is to use cookies with nuts; the nuts are 'silver' and worth less.

This afternoon was truly a peek at the future. These kids were not much different than the usual kids in my seventh grade classes. BUT, these kids attend one of the best Elem. schools in this county. What will the kids in the many other "lower performing" schools that feed into my junior high be like ? My job continues to get more challenging. I guess I'd better prepare, because I will probably have to teach another 15 years or so before I can truly consider retirement from teaching.

Thanks for reading my blog ! I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS !

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Another lesson for you beginning teachers.....

I was having my Saturday morning java at usual downtown coffee shop/used bookstore combo this am when another teacher , well call him "Billy Joe," came in for his usual Saturday morning java at the usual downtown coffeeshop/ used bookstore combo.
"Hey, how's the student teaching going," I asked him.
He sighed, and said, "I'm going to work for the Probation Department, there's just too much crap to deal with with teaching now."
"Billy Joe" is retired from the local county sheriffs department and WAS teaching vocational ed. at a nearby high school. But that school districts new, carpetbagging, corrupt crook of a Superintendent convinced their previous school board to save money by doing away with vocational education in the district and fire all those teachers. As he told the board, "Our children are not tested in vocational educational skills." (this school district is perpetually ranked at the bottom of California schools). So, Billy Joe was out of a job. He decided to try his hand at Elementary Education and was finished with most of his requirements when he just decided it was too much crap to deal with. Our county Probation Department is always hiring, and with his law enforcement and educational experiences, he'll have no trouble getting on with the Probation Department. He went on to tell me, with a large hint of disgust in his voice, that all the 'extra' stuff he'd done for the school and school district, the committees, sponsoring clubs, taking kids to weekend educational conferences, etc., DIDN'T COUNT FOR SQUAT. His years of teaching, or helping countless 'less than motivated' kids, his 'going the extra mile for his students' was, in the eyes of the low rated district where he taught, worthless. OH, and yes, he was tenured. Tenure does not count for squat if the district eliminates your teaching position and there is not an open slot where your existing credentials and seniority will allow you to teach ( such as his Social Studies credential ), by 'bumping' someone with less time than you have. Billy Joe was just SOL.
Could they have transferred him into another teaching position while he worked on getting his credentials for that new position ? Yes. But the administration chose not to. Was he active in the teachers union? No more than the average teacher, meaning he was forced to pay dues and maybe went to a meeting or two.

Why do many school administrators hate teachers so much ? Does it have something to do with "Those who can't teach, administrate?",
That those who go from the classroom into administration are secretly ashamed and embarrassed that they couldn't handle teaching kids, couldn't find or think of some other job that might pay them a similar salary, so they became administrators ? Why is it that the edubureaucrats make it so difficult for someone to get into teaching or practically have to start from scratch if they change from Secondary to elementary or Voc. Ed. ? Why do they put more requirement on getting into teaching when there are places just begging for teachers ?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Something New to Teach......

Tomorrow I will be teaching something new. This is not news for many teachers, but tomorrow afternoon will be a new teaching experience for me. It will not include my seventh graders; it is a classroom full of FOURTH GRADERS. My oldest sons class is currently studying "Missions" as a fragment of Social Studies that is taught in Grades 4-6 in my school district. But, it always irks me, that every year, these kids are taught incomplete data about the "Spanish" missions of California. Just about every California History textbook I have ever seen, says there are "21 missions" in California. This is wrong. There were actually 23 missions established by the Spanish in "Alta California". The two missions they fail to include are Mission La Purisima Concepcion and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuner. So, you may be asking, where were these two missions?

These two missions were established in 1780 near the Yuma Crossing (the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers), by Padre Francisco Garces. The goal of these missions was two-fold; to bring the word of God to the Quechan Nation (Yuma Indians) and to help establish a settlement on the new trail from "Pimeria Alta" (what is now Northern Sonora and Southern Arizona) to Alto California. Padre Garces had accompanied Captain Juan Bautista DeAnza in pioneering this land route to Alto California a few year before. The Quechan people had several previous encounters with the Spanish, way back about 1541 when part of the Coronado Expedition visited the area and then in the early 1700's when Padre Kino visited the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Kino's report indicated a willing acceptance to learn about the one True God by the Quechan. The DeAnza Expeditions had been assisted by the Quechan in 1774 and 1776, and Garces believed they were ready to be converted. Garces and three other priests established these two missions. Months later, Captain Fernando Javier Rivera y Monacda led a group of emigrants to the Yuma Crossing. Some continued on to San Gabriel, but Rivera, some soldiers and settlers began establishing a military and civilian pueblo at the Yuma Crossing. It did not take long for problems between the Spanish and the Quechan to erupt. One of the major problems was the Spanish livestock was eating mesquite beans, a major source of food for the Quechan people. Several Quechan were disciplined by the Spanish for infractions of the 'new' rules. Finally, in July, 1781, the Quechan had had enough. They massacred Rivera and his command, the male settlers and the four priests. Some of the female settlers and children were later ransomed by the Spanish. The two missions and whatever buildings the military and settlers had built were totally destroyed. And the Spanish never returned. It would be over 50 years before the war with Mexico brought traffic back to the Yuma Crossing.

I do not know why this great story is left out of California History textbooks. The great history compiler H.H. Bancroft includes it in his epic history volumes, and of course, there are both church and Spanish government records about this tragic event.

After a little bit of story telling with the fourth graders, the plan is for them to then play "archaeologist" and examine some "artifacts" that could have been excavated from the site of a Spanish settlement, draw pictures of them, try to figure out what it is a piece of or what its use was....etc. Then, they can make some guesses about life in a Colonial Spanish settlement. It should be a fun afternoon.

Thanks for reading my Blog. I welcome your comments !

Monday, April 04, 2005

And Today's Teacher Tips: BE PREPARED and IMPROVISE

Today is our first day back to school from Spring Break and we are also dealing with the switch to daylight savings time. Today was a day that Mother Nature decided not been kind to me. She began her two-pronged assault on me about two am. Apparently a "low front" passed through this spring flower bespeckled desert last night. Howling, screaming banshees swept over my house, sending my wife's patio wind chimes into hysterics, rattling my 'someday to be replaced loose fitting' bedroom window and waking me up. As I lay listening to the wind gusts zooming by, I began to wonder if my barbecue still had its cover? As I checked on it out my back patio window, sure enough, it was not on the barbecue anymore, but fortunately, at that moment, lying on the patio where it had somehow landed after doing its wind dance instead of sailing off into some nearby backyard. I went out and brought it in the house. As I exited my living room in the dark, I cracked my shin on a small footrest that somebody had convent's left in the middle of one of the pathways through the living room. Back to bed and after awhile, finally back to sleep.

THEN, just minutes after I crawled out of bed to get ready to go to school, my eight year old runs in, all excited, DADDY ! DADDY ! A BIG BRANCH BLEW OFF THE TREE BY THE STREET AND IS BLOCKING THE STREET ! Upon further investigation, yep, several good sized branches have busted off an elm tree in front of our house. I dragged the big branch that is on the street to the side of the street and right away know what I will be doing when I get home from teaching for the day.

The next instrument of Mama Natura was one of the kids. Just after lunch, as we were beginning to reading a play aloud together, a squeal of horror erupts from the front center of my classroom and a student bolts for the door trailing Papa John's pizza that he'd eaten for lunch and was now being brutally rejected by his digestive system. He got my classroom carpet, three desks occupied by his fellow students, and one unfortunate girls backpack and sweater. Not counting some sub teaching in college, I have been teaching for 21 years. THIS HAD NEVER HAPPENED IN MY CLASSROOM (I know, I may be lucky in that regard, but.....). Fortunately, no one else was induced to toss their lunch in a sympathy hurl. Thus began the parade from my classroom to the bathroom to try to wash vomit off of backpack and sweater, or just to be out of the room for a couple of minutes. I called the office to request custodian assistance (also a lesson for the kids on a job that they might not want in the future) and after about 10 rings, someone in the office finally answered. A few minutes later, one of our custodians arrived with his container of white anti-puke powder, a dust pan and handbroom and cleaned up some of the mess. He had to get a squirt bottle of cleaner for some of the desks that had been hit.

Kids in the hurl zone were relocated to other areas of the classroom and I loaned the poor girl with the puked on backpack the use of a spare backpack I just happen to keep in my classroom for emergencies. (Here is a valuable teaching preparation tip for you newer teachers out there.....your Education profs probably never told you about things as described above.....) OF course, the rest of the class was bonkers by now. To try to realign their minds back on the topic of the day, I told them to quietly read the remainder of the play to themselves and add to the notes they'd also started before Papa John's pizza re-emerged from the bubbly acidic world of digestion.

OF course, my next (and thank GOD, last) class of the day showed up having heard all about the events of prior class period. After about ten minutes of class, several had complained about the smell of the 'anti-odor' powder. I decided not to argue or debate with them about it, and asked them if they'd rather 'read the play in small groups, discuss the new data presented in the play and take notes' outside in the nearby, vacant ramada area. They of course, agreed. So, lesson number two for you newer teachers out there, be ready to IMPROVISE. At least for my last class of the day, we did the lesson, but in a different format than other classes had done the same basic lesson. One note: My period 6 class can handle such an improvised lesson. Other classes are not as disciplined as my sixth period class. This is one aspect that made this change work.

The regular custodian who takes care of my classroom was not there today. My room had not been cleaned as of the time I departed school to go deal with the downed tree parts littering my front lawn. I will keep a lot of it as kindling and wood for my wife's fireplace.

So, how was your first day back from Spring Break ?????

Thanks for reading my blog. I welcome your comments !

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Failing Kids, Failing Schools, Failing Governor

The state motto of California is "EUREKA", Greek for "I have found it!". California is said to be the "Golden State". California is much different than many other states. While many states are losing population (according to the US Census), California has shown growth. Why? The lure of California as the "Golden State". In the year 1900, not that many people lived in California. It was largely a rural state, very agricultural and hosted two 'frontier' places for immigrants/emigrants to establish a new life; the Owens Valley and the Imperial Valley. It was not until after WWII that California's population truly boomed. Thousands had come to California because of WWII, either as members of the US military or for the wartime industry that developed. Many of those who came here liked it, especially the weather. They married and began having children. Consequently, cities grew. Automobile culture developed. And, what became a world class system of education developed with California's public schools and universities. But then something happened.
In the 1970's, Proposition 13 dramatically altered the tax structure of California. And, the face of California was changing. The Boat People arrived. The past 25 years have seen a great influx of Hispanic immigrants. Unfortunately, the educational infrastructure did not change much. Not many new schools were built. A new level of bureaucracy was spawned; Bilingual Education. In theory, this was a good thing. But in reality, it failed. That failure was due in part to greed, political and cultural factors. Most students labeled as being in need of 'bilingual education' in fact, only received a monolingual education.....en Espanol. Many of them never 'graduated' from the bilingual program and into mainstream classes. Many of these "bilingual" students never graduated from high school. To attack Bilingual Education was akin to an attack upon their "culture".

A recent Harvard University study declared some 'startling' new figures for California in regard to the real dropout rate. Not surprising to many classroom teachers was the fact that the largest percentage of drop outs were Hispanic and African-American students. In a recent LA Times article about the LA Unified School District, it seems that many of these students drop out soon after entering high school. Why? They are sent to high school weather or not they are academically prepared for high school or not (social promotion) They fail classes because there is not a student desk/seat for them in their assigned classes. They fail classes because they never receive a textbook for their assigned classes. They fail classes because they cite a problem in getting help with their school work from their 'non-English speaking' parent(s). They fail classes because they move and cannot get to school. They drop out because they need to work to help provide money for their family. They drop out because they are assigned classes such as "service class" in which students organize textbooks, decorate the school for holidays or just sit around and do nothing." They drop out because their counselors place them in Junior ROTC classes instead of English classes. They fail because they do not have qualified teachers; many cite that they have a series of one substitute teacher after another for classes. They are herded into huge schools (LAUSD's Garfield H.S. has over 5000 students enrolled ! )

IS this typical? I doubt it. But, read Mr. Babylon's stories about the high school where he teaches in NYC. Maybe these problems get amplified due to the large number of kids in schools in LA and NYC. BUT, IMO, the bottom line is, a failure of leadership. A failure to build the new schools that are needed to help educate this growing number of students. A failure to plan for the future. A failure of parents to learn about the system, to demand excellence in education for their children and to hold politicians and school administrators accountable. A failure of special interest groups to strive to do what is BEST for the kids and not strive to perpetuate their bureaucracy and self interests (such as Bilingual Education, State Teacher's Unions). A failure to make teaching an attractive career option for our young people. A failure of the educational system and government to support beginning teachers. A failure of the recent governors of California to shelve what is politically correct and do what is right. A failure by Gov. S. and the corrupt California Legislature to address this problem. Instead, Gov. S. is choosing to attack the teachers by threatening their retirement, their paycheck and wishing to place their job security in the hands of those who may be less than professional or competent when dealing with teachers. It is the failure of our National Government to get its pork-barrel nose out of education and leave it up to the States to decide what is best for the education of their students. There is lots of failure around. Why are teachers always to first to be blamed for all of this?

Thanks for reading my blog. As always, I welcome your comments !

Friday, April 01, 2005

Leftovers for the Kids

The 'Education Machine' has grown huge over the past 50 years. Here in the small county where I live, the old County Office of Education building sits next to our county courthouse. It was not a large building, but was large enough to handle the required aspects of county educational bureaucracy 50 years ago. But IT needed more, in the 1960's as educational bureaucracy grew. So, the county built a new County Office of Education building outside of the city, adjacent to their new juvenile detention facility and county jail. With the new milleneum it was not enough. They now have a shining new two story structure in addition to their previous facility. Meanwhile, the school where I teach (and attended as a student), has added a new building to house five science classrooms and school computer lab. And there is a bathroom structure. Those are the only two buildings built for 'my' campus since before I was a student there in the early 1970's. There are a lot more kids now. Same gym facility with super crowded locker rooms. But now the showers don't work. Our students cannot wash up after taking PE (were many months of the year, the temperatures are over 100 degrees F). They just (maybe) change back into their street clothes and go on to their next class. If they are coming to my class after PE, many of my students regularly head straight to my paper towel dispenser to get some paper towels to wipe the sweat off their faces, that is, when there are paper towels available.

What is the point of all this ? Many pundits are saying that "throwing money at the schools" is not going to do any good, as evidenced by a lack of progress in the past. But, where is that money going ? Too much of it is getting sucked into the edubureaucracy. It goes for my superintendent to redo his office every three years. It goes for people in the edubureaucracy to have the latest computer technology sitting on their desks. It goes to pay for coordinators and consultants at the district office. It goes for the brand new Community School that this county built to try to keep juvenile delinquents in school. It goes for school boards agreeing to pay 100% lifetime family health care for their retiring superintendent. It goes to pay for new administration buildings that cannot be used because they were built over toxic waste sites. It goes for increasing facilities to house the growing blob of edubureaucracy.

It doesn't go towards having a locker room at school where students can rinse their sweaty bodies after taking PE. It doesn't go to hiring teachers to teach remedial classes in junior high or high schools because too many kids are socially promoted or to have those students repeat Grade 3, 6, 8. It doesn't go to paying for a licensed professional librarian in each school or school district. It doesn't go to hold educationally enriching summer school sessions for our top students. The bottom line is, too much of the education money doesn't go for the kids. They just get whatever might be left over. Check our Jamie Vollmer's "THE BURDEN" <http://www.jamievollmer.com/> It is interesting.

Thanks for reading my blog. As always, I welcome your comments !