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?"

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They Say it, but don't Live it........

IF you are tired of some of us educational bloggers bitching, complaining and griping about our forced membership in the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association (CTA/NEA) and not having a voice in choosing the leaders of these unions, PLEASE STOP READING THIS.

At the NEA representative Assembly in Los Angeles last summer, the representatives of us teachers voted on many resolutions and amended some resolutions. As published in the most recent edition of NEA TODAY, on page 51, there is Resolutions H 3: "The Right to Vote". It reads:

"The National Education Association believes that the principle of one person-one vote must apply at all levels of government, including the election of the President of the United States.
The Association recognizes the right to vote as a constitutional right guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The Association supports the continued maintenance of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Association also supports voting and absentee provisions that are accessible, simplified, accurate, reliable and verifiable for all elections and further supports elections administrations that provide for open, fair, secure, and publicly verifiable ballot counting.
The Association opposes all actions that encourage or result in voter disenfranchisement. The Association supports voter education programs and uniform registration requirements without restrictive residency provisions."

I really wish NEA did BELIEVE this. But, sadly and pathetically, they believe that everyone who is eligible to vote should be able to vote in the election for President of the United States. Why is this sad and pathetic, you may be wondering? Because they will not even allow a "one person - one vote" to select the President of NEA. How can NEA advocate something when they themselves WILL NOT DO IT ? In the 22 years that I have been a full-time , dues deducted from my paychecks teacher and member of NEA, I have never once had the opportunity to cast my ballot for my union president, the man or woman who says they speak for me and all teachers.
NEA speaks of their opposition to all actions that encourage or result in voter disenfranchisement". How "Disenfranchising" is it to never have the right to cast a ballot for your "elected" union officials????

The California Education Association is no better. In my 18 years teaching in California, just like with NEA, I have never been allowed to cast a ballot to elect CTA State President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer.

How difficult would it be to publish a ballot for the election of state and national officers in the magazines CTA and NEA publish about every month? They could be removed from the magazine, members could choose the candidate they wish to vote for and mail the ballot to one of those survey or balloting tabulation companies. OR, it could be done online. How hard is this ???? I believe it would go a long way in making teachers feel they had some say in who their leaders are and in feeling less "disenfranchised". What do you think ????

ANY of you reading this blog rant who are members of AFT and their affiliates, Do you get to cast ballots for your state and national union leaders? Please let me/us know.

As always, thank you for reading my blog. I welcome and appreciate your comments.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What do "Top" Teachers want for Students ?

In yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune, there was an article about three of the "Top" teachers in San Diego County. Zenaida Rosario (3rd Grade, San Ysidro), Debra Brice (8th Grade Science and Spanish, San Marcos Middle School) and Stan Murphy (Social Studies, San Diego H.S.) were asked what they wanted for their students. They came up with a "Top Ten" list for Students:

1. Know you are important.

2. Have high expectations of yourself; establish personal goals and commit to
accomplishing them.

3. Ask questions, lots of questions, anytime, no matter what.

4. Treat others with respect.

5. Be good to yourself by getting enough sleep and making good choices when eating
and exercising daily, even if it is just walking the dog. It's a great way to
relax and help you focus on your studies. Try out for a sport at school.

6. Every day, share something you've learned with someone at home.

7. Try to be at school every day. If you miss school, you miss out.

8. Read every day, whether it's magazines or books. The more you read, the better
reader you become. Try to choose something new to read that you haven't tried
before; challenge yourself; explore.

9. Volunteer in your community; being involved will make you a better citizen
and a better student.

10. Have confidence; believe all things are possible; excel to the best of your

In the article, these "Top" teachers also made some other suggestions, some of them aimed at parents. These suggestions included:

* Stay informed about your child's academic growth, understand test results.

* Know the curriculum being taught. If you don't know or have questions, ask the

* Put away electronic games. Its ok to play electronic games during vacations.

* Read to your children, or set aside some time each day to read together as a

* Write. The more you write, the better writer you will become.

* Have a place at home for studying.

* Be supportative of learning. Show your children that you love to learn

* Be a good role model.

* Take you children to special places and talk about what you see.

* Keep many good books in your home. Make a place in your home for reading.
Turn off the TV and make quiet time for reading. Take your children to the
library and bookstores.

* Be involved with your older (junior high and high school) children's education.

* Try to avoid conflicts with things going on in the family and school assignments.

* Talk to teachers about things that might affect school work or attendance.

Thanks for reading my blog ! As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated !

Monday, August 08, 2005

"US History: Our Worse Subject" How Come ?

At the end of June, a US Senate hearing was held regarding a proposed bill, S 860, "The American History Achievement Act". This proposed legislature, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), seeks to authorize a 10-state pilot study to provide state-by-state comparison of US History and civics test data for 8th and 12 grades administered by the National Assessment of Education Progress.

The senate hearing heard testimony from several people, including the well-known and highly regarded historian, David McCullough. McCullough cited the negative impact of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" initiative on teaching of history, because of NCLB's emphasis on language arts and math. McCullough also noted that too many "history teachers" in US public schools were NOT history majors, they majored in "education" and did not necessarily communicate a "love of history" to their students. He complained that textbooks were boring the kids to death and turning them off to history due to most history textbooks being written in a dry, data heavy format instead of a "narrative format.

I find much of what Mr. McCullough says to be true. However, I believe there are other factors in students lack of interest in the subject of history. I find that for most of the students entering my classroom in seventh grade, they have had very little exposure to history in their elementary school years. California mandates that Grade 4 is California History, Grade 5 is Early US History and Grade 6 is Early World History. But it is not being taught. Trying to get the kids to score higher on their math and language arts tests is more important than including history (and science, art, music and P.E) for the upper elementary students of my school district. "They are not tested in History" is what I have heard from several of these upper elementary teachers. YES THEY ARE. They are tested in US and World History Standards in Grade 8. This is also largely due to mandates from our district office. YOU TEACHERS better bring up those damn test scores, or else!

Most schools have also accepted the politically correct/alternative minority viewpoint of history. There are US history textbooks that will go on and on about things in our past such as slavery and what women did to help win the American Revolution. Yes, these are a part of our history, but they are intentionally neglecting things done by "dead males of European descent". Check out the historical novels published in the past ten years and in your school libraries; lots of novels about slavery and women in history. Is there an equivalent series of books for boys like the "American Girls" series? Are there any newer books for young people about George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Any of the major military events of our history? Not that I am aware of.

Also, it has been at least ten years since I have been allowed out of my classroom to attend a professional history teaching conference. And then,I attended a Calif. League of Middle Schools Conference because it was on a Saturday and I was a presenter (Presentation on inclusion of science in teaching American History). Teachers of History need the opportunities for professional growth in our subject too.

Many of my students also do not have parents who offer them opportunities to visit historical places. Within a 200 mile radius of my home, we have the various Spanish missions of Southern California, Cabrillo National Monument, Hoover Dam, The Yuma Crossing, Yuma Territorial Prison (AZ.) State Park, various traveling exhibits at museums in LA, Orange Co., San Diego etc., (for example, there are currently two exhibits dealing with Ancient Egypt, on in LA and one with real mummies at a museum in Orange County). Informal polling of my students indicates that 95% of them have never been to any of these places, or often, have never heard of them. They have been to many of the amusement parks in Southern California. Parents will spend $500 for a family trip to Magic Mountain, but not a dime to visit historical places. These parents will buy/rent intellectually retarding videos/dvds and electronic games for their kids; heaven forbid they take them to a public library to check out books about history (or anything else) [Does your local public library not have a bunch of videos/dvd's for its patrons to borrow? Mine does.]

I believe this intentional neglect of our history by public schools, the growth of political correctness when history is 'taught' and the emphasis on minority involvement to the neglect of the majority involvement in US History has been a factor in the decision by many parents to home school their children.

In recent years, I have taught grade 7 "World History" in California. California has these massive frameworks for most Grade 7-12 subjects. Grade 7 World History is basically the history of the world (except Antarctica) in the "middle ages." We are currently limited to one (crappy, IMO) principle textbook called "Across the Centuries". IMNSHO, no real teacher of history relies solely on the text; I have games we play (ie: Medieval trade: Silk Road Adventure), "IF you were there" situations, Choosing Your Way Through History" activities and a host of other non-text centered learning activities. Realistically, it is not impossible to cover ALL of the standards California has imposed for Grade 7 history teachers. But I do try to make history interesting for my students.

Thanks for reading my blog. Your comments and thoughts on this topic are welcome and appreciated.

Friday, August 05, 2005

a Summer Project----Completed

One of my projects for this summer, was to remove the stump of an olive tree from my front yard. The tree was dying, so, bit by bit last winter and spring, I cut it down. Much of the wood will be used for firewood. Summer found me with a stump. This olive tree did not leave a 'normal' stump, there were two bits of the trunk left on top of the five foot wide base. Removal, by my primitive methods, would require lots of digging and cutting of roots. Dynamite or C4 would have been useful. It was a long, slow, very hot process. I generally worked on it in the mornings, before our high summer temperatures and humidity reached their blazing peak. (average day in July - Sept., about 107+ degrees and 65%+ humidity).

I started to dig around it, digging enough to get to the roots that emerged from the trunk like the arms of an octopus. Several roots were about five inches or so in diameter, requiring much sawing and hacking with the axe. My axe handle shattered in the process. I have a chain saw, but it is currently in pieces and doesn't seem to work for longer than thirty minutes without breaking down. I did find out this about olive trees: They have no taproot. The wood is VERY hard. I was also told that olivewood dulls chainsaw blades very quickly.

It is done. Some of the root parts will be firewood. The remains of the trunk were manhandled into the back of my small truck and hauled to the local landfill. I jokingly asked several neighbors if they were interested in an "unfinished olivewood table top". Noone wanted it, so off to the dump it went.
A successfully completed summer project. Back to School for teachers is in 17 days.

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