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?"

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Few other Things....

At this time, I am probably not going to attend this summers NEA RA Assembly. I was not elected to go. I signed up for my name to be placed on the ballot to allow those members of CTA who live in this region to vote for the person who they wanted to represent them at the NEA RA Assembly. But, there was no election. Apparently, I get to go by appointment or default. In my mind, this is not democratic. If I go and speak up about certain issues, whom will I be speaking for, other than myself ? Whom am I representing ? Just me?

Secondly, It will personally cost me money. I am the sole source of income for my family, and the amount of money that CTA will reinburse its delegates will not cover the estimated cost for me to attend this assembly. CTA is only offering reinbursement up to $1250 dollars. They will pay for you to share a hotel room, which would probably be ok, except that meals, transportation, parking and whatever other expenses will add up to more that CTA will reinburse its delegates. My salary has been reduced five to six thousand dollar over the past two years due to health insurance increases and a corrupt insurance trust that has forced teachers in my district to pay lots of their own money for no insurance coverage. As a result, my family will not get much of a summer vacation this year. I can choose to spend my tiny bit of discressionary savings by treating my family to a short vacation or by paying some of my expenses by attending the NEA RA Assembly. My family comes first. Yes, I'd like to go and propose that membership in NEA be voluntary, that the teachers that make up NEA are personally allowed to cast ballots to elect their union officers and that NEA stop endorsing political candidates and learn to work with ALL elected politicians. But my family comes first.
So, I will not be going to Los Angeles for the NEA RA Assembly.

A month or so ago, I personally presented a letter of griveances to CTA President Barbara Kerr. As of today, I have heard nothing back from Mrs. Kerr or any of her CTA minions.

Memorial Day 2005

TODAY is Memorial Day, a day to honor those who have served our great nation and have suffered death or personal injury as a result of their service. My family has a long record of military service to this nation; Here is a brief write up about three of them.

Peter Looney, Sgt., Augusta County Virginia Militia, served at Fort Vause during the French and Indian Wars. He was there when it was attacked. He was wounded and taken as a prisoner to Indian villages near Lake Erie and Huron. When he got the opportunity, he escaped and made his way home. On his journey back to Virginia, he met a newspaper reporter in New York City, who wrote down Peter Looney's story and it was published in a London Newspaper in 1757. He was reimbursed for his losses and granted a reward for his bravery by the Virginia House of Burgesses. He married a neighbor girl and shortly before the birth of their son, Peter Jr., Peter Sr. died. (Peter Jr. had a couple of cousins, one of whom Lauderdale County in Tennessee and Alabama are named and for whom Ft. Lauderdale, FL. is named.)

In 1862, James Dunlap left his wife and two young children on their family farm in rural White Co., ILL. to serve with the 87th Ill. Infantry, USA. During US Grant's Mississippi River Campaign, James Dunlap fell ill to dysentery. He was sent home to recuperate. He later re-joined his regt. for General Bank's Red River Campaign in Louisiana. But, again, Private Dunlap fell ill to dysentery. On a ship carrying the wounded and ill northward from a New Orleans hospital, Pvt. Dunlap died of dysentery. His body was unceremoniously dumped off at the woodyard at Memphis, TN. with a note to bury this dead soldier. He is now buried in the Illinois Section of Memphis National Cemetery. (The military authorities at Memphis contacted the captain of this ship and let him know what would happen to him and his big government contract if he ever again showed such mistreatment and disrespect to the body of a Union soldier)

In 1862, David M. Russell left his family in Ozark Co., Missouri to serve in Phelps Regt, USA. They fought at Elk Horn Tavern, in northwestern Arkansas, then disbanded because their enlistment was up. David went home and with many of his neighbors who supported the Union cause, joined the local Missouri Mounted Milita. The main job of the Mounted Militia was to protect their loved ones and homes from "southern" raiders coming up to Missouri from Arkansas. One spring day, while home plowing his fields, David Russell was shot (bushwhacked). It is reported that he died several days later.

Today, I fly the US Flag outside my house in honor of these ancestors and to honor all those other thousands who have given their lives in the service of our country. Though they'll never hear it, I say THANK YOU.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Teacher To Teacher: Test/Quiz Versions and End of Year Rush

Differentiated Tests and Quizzes

Do you give different versions of a test or quiz to your students ? I learned years ago, that if you give all students the exact same test/quiz, somehow, a few will find a way to cheat. But, through the miracle of modern computers and their word processing capabilities, creating several versions of the quiz/test is very simple and doesn’t take too much time. It also makes it very easy to create differentiated test/quizzes for my RSP and ELL students.

Do you have different colors of paper upon which to copy the test or quiz ? Increasingly, my school district is supplying less and less materials for use in our classrooms. For next year, I was only able to order five cases of paper to run off things for my students. With an average of 170-175 students each school year, five cases of paper will not go too far. And, when I used to be able to order color paper (pastel yellows and greens, tan, ivory, etc.), I could easily make different color copies of the different test or quiz versions. So, what do you do when you want to have different versions of a test or quiz, but only have white paper? Being a history teacher, I took a page from our ancestors books of knowledge to resolve this problem. On the American frontier, families usually turned their hogs loose in the woods to root around for food. They’d round up some hogs when it was hog butchering time and that was often a community event. So how could they tell whose hog belongs to who? Sometimes, it didn’t matter, they all shared the meat, lard, etc. on an equal basis. Or, they knew whose hog was whose by how its ear was notched. So, I “notch” my papers. One version of the quiz might have the upper left hand corner rounded, another version with the bottom right corner sliced off, a third version with no three ring holes punched until after the test/quiz, a fourth version with no notch, another with the title highlighted……etc. etc…..

End of the School Year “Curriculum I haven’t covered” Rush

Do you ever get to that last month of your school year and find that you still have some material to teach or at least, expose your students to? I usually do. In the history program used by my district, the text supplemental materials includes a booklet with chapter lesson summaries. I use these summaries towards the end of the school year to try to cover some of the material that I just haven’t gotten to, but my students might be tested upon on the Grade 8 California Standards Test. I take the summary and develop comprehension questions, usually “state test-like” multiple choice questions. After reading the passage and answering the questions, we then go over the questions. Students then use these questions and the answers to create Cornell Notes (Study Questions, Notes, student written summary. Their notes must be the combination of the question and its answer written as a single statement. They might also be assigned to create a 6+6 (Six facts and pictures the key concepts, vocabulary and facts).

Thank you for reading my blog ! I hope some of you find value in these ideas. As always, I welcome your comments !

While this is not the best way to teach a unit or section of a textbook, it can do to help cover that material when you are in a RUSH to try to cover what you haven't gotten to at the end of the school year.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

This and That.... Damage to Kids....

I just found out that a relative of mine is on the lam. Seems Robert had another run in with the Springfield, MO. police. The recent event apparently ended in a Springfield Park with him getting "subdued" by the police due to having a weapon and macing a cop. I don't know the whole story, but when you see a picture of him being loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for treatment and psychological evaluation, it is probably bad.
Robert is the youngest son of one of my cousins. He was classified as Special Education by his local school district. From what I know, he was not a behavior 'problem' until his encounter with one particular teacher in about fifth grade. It seems this teacher had a personal policy of locking up students who misbehaved in his classroom. Locking the kids in a classroom closet. I don't know how long students were tortured this way, but over time, I imagine it had an impact; a very negative impact. I do know that when my cousin found out about this torture, the *&^%@# school covered it up. As far as I know, that *&^%$# teacher is still "teaching". I kinda wished I'd known about this and could of advised my cousin on a stronger course of action; like reviving the Bald Knobbers and seeking justice for those kids that "teacher" tortured and the administrators who covered up for this "teacher". For those of you whose ancestors hail from the Arkansas-Missouri border region and who suffered through the Civil War, you probably have heard of the Bald Knobbers. For you other readers, lets just say that the Bald Knobbers were a group of concerned men who saw way too many injustices being perpetrated against their families, friends and neighbors and who, because of a lack of legal law enforcement, took it as their civic duty to administer justice. They were not the klan, just honest men who wouldn't sit and watch the abuse anymore, so they took action and did what they believed was necessary.
So, after several days in hospital, Robert slipped his cuffs and escaped out the window. He is still on the lam, as far as I have heard. Hopefully, Robert will get some help. He needs it.

Thanks for reading my blog. I welcome your comments!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Saturday Teacher Inservice

I didn't have to go to this teacher inservice. It was scheduled for a Saturday, most of the day Saturday. Saturday is usually a day of trying to relax, going out for coffee, piddling about the house, vegging in front of the tv with the remote control firmly in hand. Not sitting in a teacher inservice for most of the day. But I did go.

Why did I go? Did I need the inservice for my California Credential required bank of hours ? No. I go my credential before they added the bank of hours requirement (150 hours of inservice over a five year period of time). But, I do feel that I am a professional and I need to find new ideas to add to my teaching tool box of strategies. Due to budget cuts, teachers at my school rarely get to go to any conventions or 'out of area' inservice opportunities. The inservice that was offered Saturday was designed for middle school teachers. It was titled: Rules of Engagement: Winning the War against Student Apathy" and facilitated by a Kentucky gentlemen named Dave Shepard. His personal manner and experience with teaching and administrating middle school were great. I enjoyed this inservice opportunity, and found some new ideas to include in my tool box of teaching strategies.

The best of what I learned and believe I can use include activities such as
Mix and Match, Test "Cheat" Notes, and "Stump the Teacher."
Some of you may be reading this an thinking, "Sheesh, we heard about these in Ed. School." Lets just say that when I was in Ed School back in the early 1980's, very little in way of instructional strategies was ever taught. We were introduced to stuff like SQ3R. It seems that a lot of work went into formulating or developing teaching instructional strategies after I got out of Ed School. Yes, the program I was in at a CSU school sucked and aside from the student teaching requirement, did next to nothing to prepare me to be in a classroom. But that was years ago; I have learned a tremendous amount about the craft of teaching since then, but anyhow, back to yesterdays inservice.

Dave noted, over and over and over of the need for the teacher to recognize and work within the parameters of the middle school students we are "teaching," they Talk, Move and Mess Around. Let them talk, but make it talking to each other about the subject, such as Pair-Share, Mix and Match and Four Corners activities. Keep them engaged. Let them move, not sitting in a desk chair for 40-50 minutes. As they move, yes, they will mess around a bit, that is the nature of a middle school aged kid. Most of the time, they are not causing harm.
I have assigned my students to do a study sheet as homework before a test or quiz, mostly as a review activity. I often let them use it on their test or quiz. One new idea I learned from Dave's workshop is to let them develop one "Cheat Notes" sheet, beginning with the new unit or section of study. They may take notes only on one side of their paper. This paper is turned in with their test/quiz.
"A Note to a Friend" is an activity done at the end of an explanation or demonstration. Students take a sheet of paper and write a note to a friend explaining the process, rule, concept, data or whatever it is they have just learned about. They then give their 'note' to a friend or verbally share what they wrote with someone else in the class.
In "What did You Learn Today", students are given a 'ticket' with a place to write their name and one thing they have learned from today's lesson. It is collected as they exit the classroom. Students can also draw something to show their learning.
Mix and Match is an activity that can be used with vocabulary or sequencing using index cards. For example, take index cards and on some of them, write the definition of your current vocabulary terms. On the other cards, write the vocabulary term. One group of students select the cards for the vocabulary terms and another group selects the group of cards with the definitions. Then, they mingle to find the matching pairs (vocabulary term with definition). They then read to their classmates the vocabulary term and its definition. (their classmates will let them know if they are correct).

In all, yesterday was a wonderful opportunity for some good professional growth. Did I need it? Yes, I am a professional, a teacher. Every professional, every teacher, needs to grow and work to improve in this craft called teaching.

Thanks for reading my blog! As always, I welcome your comments! And, please share your ideas or neat things you have learned about teaching instructional strategies.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Extra Credit

I have a policy regarding extra credit that simply states: "If you are not earning at least a "C" in my class, you are not eligible for Extra Credit, unless I offer extra credit to everyone." I do not believe a student should be doing "extra" work when they are not doing what is expected of them in the class. I don't believe extra credit is to bring up a failing grade. (Coming in afterschool and making up missing work is possible, but not the last week of school.)

The extra credit I offer for everyone is activities like parent participation on the parent-student homework assignments that are given several times per year (students answer questions about things like using slave labor or hiring labor to build onto the Great Wall of China and explaining why their choice is best, "Are men in charge of women" as per the Qur'an and Christian Bible, etc. Parents who participate (answer questions and hopefully, discuss issues with their child, earn their child extra points), or watching something historical on tv and explaining what they have learned. But most extra credit opportunities have the minimum grade requirement. What do you other teachers do? I welcome your comments and discussion.


Warning: RANT MODE ON ---- CTA wants MORE of my money. They are "proposing" an increase of $60.00 annual dues increase to fight the Governators assault on teachers, saying that this would only be in effect for up to three years. Ya, right. WHEN have union dues (and the price of gasoline or a ticket to a professional sports event) EVER gone down? BUT NO, in addition to this proposed, promised short term dues increase, they want to raise the 'regular' CTA dues another $25.00 per year. And here in the ass-end of California, our local Uniserv Tyrant, Ernie Bristow and his flock of winged monkey minions want another $40.00 per year to raise funds to pay for the expansion of their existing Uniserv facility. ( I have written about this---please see below ).
And of course, NEA is flinching a couple of more dollars from my paycheck too. It all adds up to about $130.00 a year in increased Union dues; which for me, is an increase from $810.00 annually to about $940.00! This is about a 14% Union dues increase! Piss on that !

RANT MODE OFF ------------------

Thanks for reading my Blog ! I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS !