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, September 29, 2005

So, For WHAT do we pay Union Dues ????

NEA has my e-mail address. I guess that is what happens when you send in a teaching tip for NEA Today or the Teacher Tips stuff on their website. Oh well. So, what did I get today, from NEA ? An announcement about updates to their Teacher ToolKit. This is a "free" thing you can get from NEA, BUT, if you want the stuff that is REALLY of use to the average classroom teacher, here is what you pay:

"The basic tools are still FREE, and NEA members can access all of the advanced tools for $72.95 per year, $21.95 per quarter, or $7.95 per month. Pricing for non-members is slightly more."

Isn't part of being an association/union, besides dealing with collective bargaining, supposed to be providing professional assistance? Doesn't NEA collect enough money from us classroom teachers to be able to provide the "advanced tools" without additional cost to NEA members? In my mind, this should be one of the BENEFITS of NEA membership. Is there anything in the NEA Teacher ToolKit that schools do not provide or is not available elsewhere on the internet?

Do any of you use this NEA Teacher ToolKit? If so, please let us know your opinion of it, if it helps you in your teaching, and if it is worth paying another $73.00 a year of your money to NEA.

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My Letter

In my previous post, I'd submitted a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding California Proposition 75. It was accepted and published, with a little minor editing, as one of three "anti Prop. 75" letters to the editor published in today's (Wednesday, 28 September 2005) San Diego Union-Tribune.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2005

YES on Proposition 75

The San Diego Union - Tribune ran a few letters to the editors in favor of California Proposition 75, the proposal to make unions get their members permission to use union dues for political purposes. As many of you have read here on this blog, I am all in favor of CTA having to ask my permission to use my union dues to support political candidates and CTA social causes. I WANT TO SAY "NO" to CTA! Anyhow, I wrote a letter to the editor of my own:

"I would like to inform the general public about public school teachers and CTA in response to Mr. Malcolm Carmichael's letter to the editor (Union-Tribune, Saturday, 24 Sept. 2005, page B7). In his letter, Mr. Carmichael said "Persons not wanting their union dues or a portion .....used to help elect lawmakers and lobby.....should not belong to a union." Mr. Carmichael and others, you should know that when I became a public school teacher in California 18 years ago, I HAD NO CHOICE regarding "union" membership. It is court mandated that public school teachers will be in either CTA/NEA or CFT/AFT, whichever union has bargaining rights in the school district. As a member of CTA/NEA, I have very little say in anything; I cannot vote for my state union officers, nor do I have a say in who represents me at the local Uniserv office. CTA has the power to raise my dues whenever they wish, give my dues money to any political office candidate who tells them what they want to hear, and spend money to support any proposition or social cause they wish. I personally do not support the political candidates they spend my money to endorse. I am in favor of Proposition 75. CTA and other public service unions should have members permission before spending our hard earned money on political office candidates.
In another letter, Fire Captain Scott Culkin said he "willingly contributed" to his unions political action fund. This is great. Captain Culkin had a choice to donate or not to donate to the political action fund. CTA/NEA does not give its teacher members this choice. CTA officials take our money and decide whom to give it to or how to spend it without member input or direction. This is so wrong. Didn't our country once go to war against Britain with the issue of "taxation without representation" being one of the reasons for our Revolutionary War ?
I don't mind paying for teacher union representation in collective bargaining, but I do find that my dues money being spent for political office candidates and causes I find unacceptable to be reprehensible and un-American."

CTA has also led the effort for "public service unions" in TV ads against Prop. 75. Those of you not in California will not have seen their ad., but in their ad, they declare that "Proposition 75 slaps political restrictions on teachers and public workers, but not Arnold's corporate sponsors." In my mind, this is very misleading. Teachers have NO say in to whom CTA doles out our union money. CTA takes our money, raising dues as they wish to cover all their favorite political candidates and expenses and is spending our money to keep their power to continue to contribute unhindered by a loss of funds from those teachers who do not support CTA endorse political office candidates or social causes. Correct me if I am wrong, but do private corporations force their employees to pay into a political action fund? CTA forces its members to do so! This is so wrong.

CTA's ad against Prop. 75 also states that Prop. 75 " is targeting teachers and public workers so they can't fight back." Excuse me, but I will be happy to contribute to a political cause or candidate whom I support. CTA does not want its members to have a choice. This is so wrong, unfair, reprehensible and un-American.
CTA will still get hundreds of thousands of its teachers to tell them to spend their dues for political reasons as CTA wishes. Proposition 75 gives some of us the right to say NO.

IF you teacher in California, if you have friends and relatives in California, I encourage you to vote YES on California Proposition 75. Help send the message to CTA that their members should have a choice in how their money is spent. Choice is the American way.

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

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Open House Tips

Next week will be my junior high school's open house / back to school night. I have been through many of these. Here are a few tips that my fellow teachers might find of some use.

1. Be prepared for small children in your classroom. A number of parents who come to our open house / back to school night bring their children. Some of them are bored stiff. I keep some crayons and blank paper handy to give to them so the little ones can color while I tell parents about my class. You can also offer pages from coloring books [buy from .99 cent stores or print from websites that offer coloring pages for children] ( crayons and paper also help if parents bring small children to parent-teacher conferences too.) I let them take the paper and crayons with them.

2. Just the Facts. We usually get all of ten minutes to do our presentations. Stick with the basic data parents need: curriculum, homework requirements, textbook(s), materials their child should have available, testing, grading policy, expectations you have for your students, extra credit opportunities, etc. It is nice to have a handout for parents, but don't insult them by giving them a handout and just reading it to them. Keep in mind also, that they may go home with a handful of handouts that will not be read. I usually write a lot of it up on my chalkboards, and show them copies of things like the textbook, supplemental materials.

3. Let them know a bit about you. Let them know if you are a "fully qualified" teacher under NCLB. Let them know about your teaching experience. It is reassuring to parents to know their child has an experienced teacher who will be there for their child.

4. Availability. Let the parents know how to reach you at school. I write the school phone number and my extension on my chalkboard. Do you want parents to be able to e-mail or text message you? If so, let them know the e-mail address or text message number to use. Having these available to handout to parents is a good idea.
Also, let them know when you are available for parent conferences, should they wish to meet with you.

5. Other. Let parents know of any upcoming events that you are aware of, such as Parent Conference Week. Do you ask parents for classroom supplies? Let them know you need tissue paper (kleenex), photocopy paper, color pencils, a new laptop computer, etc. Usually there are a few parents who will contribute something for your classroom if they are asked nicely. Do you need/want parent volunteers? Let them know if you will need chaperones for upcoming field trips or just to help out once in awhile in your classroom.

Do you have any other ideas for Open House / Back to School Night? I'd like to hear them! Please share them in the comments section. Thank You for reading my Blog ! Your comments are welcome !

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tips to help your students Succeed.

When I began college years ago, one of my professors, Dr. Robert Wilhelm, gave us know-it-all Freshmen some advice for being successful in college. He told us that if we followed the advice he was sharing with us, we would be academically successful in college. I looked at the words of wisdom Dr. Wilhelm gave us, and thought to myself, WHY didn't anyone tell us about this back in high school????
The advice given to us by Dr. Wilhelm did not instantly turn us into high achieving scholars, oh no, it wasn't magic. It was a formula for work. He told us you have to work to be academically successful in college.

Years later, after I became a teacher, I decided that I should pass along Dr. Wilhelm's words of wisdom to my students. For most of my career, I have taught junior high students. I have modified the great tips given to us by Dr. Wilhelm and now I give this following list to my students at the beginning of each school year. We discuss it, and I encourage them to make it a part of their routines. I encourage them to begin to get into the good habits that can greatly help them succeed in high school and later, in college, tech school, trade school or on the job. Periodically throughout the school year, I ask them to open their binders to their DAILY HOMEWORK sheet and we review these strategies. Here is the list, which I call "Daily Homework":

Daily Homework

Before leaving school, be sure you know what needs to be done for homework for each class. Talk to your teacher(s) if you are not sure about what is expected or if you do not understand something. If you need help, ask your teacher(s) for help. If your school has a tutoring available after school, you could ask the tutors for help too.

Review your daily planner. Be sure all important instructions for each class are included in your daily planner.

Complete all assigned work for the day; activity sheets, readings, definitions, math problems; whatever must be done for classes tomorrow. Complete anything you did not finish in classes.

Read over all relevant sections of your textbook, notes, assignments, vocabulary terms and definitions etc. for the unit you are currently studying. Read your Accelerated Reader book or any other readings you are assigned.

Correct any errors or mistakes on any test, quiz, or assignment that has been returned to you by a teacher.

If you received any work back from a teacher that you turned in incomplete, FINISH IT.

Put all papers in their proper place in your binder. There should be no loose papers in your binder or backpack. Remove from your binder any papers for units you have completed. Don't throw them away unless your teacher tells you they are no longer needed for the class.

Don't put off assignments that are due in the future for the last minute. Work on any projects that are due in the near future.

Share your work with a parent or guardian. your work, classes, and grades. It is important to keep them informed about how you are doing in your classes, at school and in your daily life.

I hope you find something of importance here for your students or children. Thank you for reading my blog and as always, I welcome your comments!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fill up your Teacher Toolbox

Lately, may of my postings have been rants and gripes against CTA/NEA. I guess it is time to write something more positive and something that might be of use to new teachers or something to think about for experienced teachers.

With this new school year just starting, are you starting out this year doing the same things you have done for the past 20 years? Looking back to when I started teaching full-time years ago, I had very little in my "teacher toolbox". What was there were a few of the ideas from my teacher ed. stuff, mostly from the 'how to teach secondary reading" class and a few lessons from student teaching. But above all else, I knew I needed a whole lot more in my teacher toolbox. There was not nearly enough in it to help me be an effective teacher. I knew I did not want to be the kind of teacher I had occasionally experienced as a high school student, if today is day 4 of the unit, students need to do worksheet 4 (while teacher reads newspaper).

Anyhow, I stumbled my way through year one of teaching. My principal apparently had a lot of confidence in my abilities because in year two, he assigned me to teach five different high school classes! That year, I taught Biology, Earth Science, World History, Free Enterprise (Economics) and Journalism. IT kept me busy. It was also heavily text oriented, as I taught in a very rural school with the closest university being about a four hour drive and many of my fellow teachers were not too forthcoming sharing with their materials and I just didn't have that much in my teacher toolbox. But, I did add to my teacher toolbox. I tried to read professional teacher journals and publications, I attended summer school, and was always in search of new ideas. The message of this writing today is, KEEP adding to your teacher toolbox. Keep searching for new (for you) ideas on how to best teach the students you have. Don't stagnate, keep yourself as up to date as possible. Try to attend professional teacher conferences offered by the National and state Council's for the Social Studies, Science, Math, English teachers, etc., these are super for sharing of ideas and learning about what is available out there for your use in your classroom. And, whether or not your fellow teachers share 'stuff' with you, share with them what new ideas you think might be good for your students.
what if you end up with filing cabinets and boxes full of teaching 'stuff.' Most of the good teachers I know have tons of this 'stuff' in their teacher toolbox.
Of course, help yourself know what you have, label everything, put it in binders, save it on a computer disc, it doesn't do you any good if you don't know what you have in your teacher toolbox.

Our kids we teach year to year are similar in that most are curious, eager to learn and please their teachers, moan over homework, complain about school lunch.....but at the same time, our students are not the same as when we began teaching. When I began back in the mid 1980's, MTV still played music videos, no one had electronic games hooked up to their TV, no one had home computers and the internet. I cannot be the teacher I was in 1984. My students are not those I taught in 1984.

Keep filling that teacher toolbox, you never know when a 'tool' you have will come in handy.

I hope your Labor Day holiday was a relaxing one! Thanks for reading my blog. As always, I welcome your comments!