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?"

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Off to the Rez.....

Back in my college days, I often spent Spring Break in Phoenix visiting my Grandma and an uncle who lived there, and going to Spring Training Baseball games. Way back in during Spring Break in 1984, in the midst of my semester of student teaching at the local high school, I decided to do a bit of job hunting while I was in the "Valley of the Sun". One afternoon, I headed over to the lovely campus of Arizona State University to take a look at their "teachers wanted" postings. There were several for the Phoenix metro area and some in places I'd never heard of, even thought I thought I knew my Arizona Geography pretty well. Anyhow, I ended up applying for several of the Arizona jobs in my subject area, knowing that at the time, it would not be too difficult to obtain an Arizona Teaching Credential to add to the California Teaching Credential I had almost earned.

Anyhow, I had several interviews in southern California. One of them, I decided I wouldn't accept even if they offered me a job, because the place was just too polluted. Locally, I had a good shot at several teaching jobs, but there was not that much demand at that time for teachers with my credential. One of the jobs went to someone with political connections, even though I was the most qualified. Anyhow, In early July, I got a call from one of the Arizona schools asking if I'd like to come up there for an interview. I said sure, I'll come up there for an interview. It was for a public school up in far Northeastern Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. It was a long drive, looking at country I'd never gazed upon before. But it was pretty country. I like "rocks" and there are plenty of those to see in Northern Arizona. The interview was conducted in an informal manner by the Chair of the high school English department, Mr. L (as I found out later, was a department of two teachers), and the acting superintendent, Mrs. R. I thought the interview went well, and they told me the usual, "we'll let you know" statement. I asked if they had an idea when they might get back to me, and they said probably in about two weeks.

Back home, I'd barely gotten in the door when the phone rang. They were offering me a job. A full-time teaching job. I asked for a couple of days to think about it, and they said that would be fine. Meanwhile, I called one of the people I'd interviewed with at a local school, Kenny, (whose grandparents and my grandparents were from the same little town in Arkansas), and asked him If I was still in the running. Mr. KJ said "No, they'd gone with another candidate, sorry."
I thought about it, and discussed it with my folks (my Dad said, "IT'S Full-Time isn't it, GO! And take all you stuff with you!). I called the Rez school and told them I'd take the job. "SUPER," replied Mrs. R. She told me when I'd start, asked me to try to be there about a week ahead of time and inquired if I wanted housing at the school compound? I asked, "where the teachers live?" "Oh," Mrs. R. said, "some live here on the compound, and some drive in from Cortez (Cortez, Colorado) each day. "Well," I said, "I guess I'll live there at the school." "Great," said Mrs. R. "Just give us a call if you have any problems or need help with the credential people in Phoenix. See you in a couple of weeks!" She sounded glad to have me coming to her school, and that was a nice feeling. As it turned out, she was a nice lady and the first of four superintendents of that school district in the four years I taught there.

School started at the end of August and I loaded up a small moving van with 'all my stuff'. I had what I thought then was a lot of 'stuff' as my Dad told me to take the bed and the desk, because there wasn't room for those things in his "new" library. I took two days to drive the 500 or so miles from my folks house to my 'new' home. My new home was a one bedroom half of a long mobile home, one of many mobile homes that made up most of the teacher housing there at the school compound. It wasn't much, but then again, neither was the rent. Rent was, IIRC, $100. month, all utilities included. That seemed like nothing compared to what I would pay back in California. And I was young and single and not too fussy about where I lived. I unloaded my stuff and drove eastward to drop off the rental truck in Farmington, NM. I was not too impressed with Farmington. Many of the people I tried to do business with there seemed to have an attitude towards people who worked on the Navajo Reservation.
Oh, WHERE was I ? I was at Red Mesa, AZ. Red Mesa is along US Highway 160 between Kayenta, AZ. and Shiprock, NM. It is about 20 minutes from the Four Corners Monument and about one hour drive from Cortez, CO. And there are rocks. Lots of Rocks. Like I said, I like rocks.

More later, If you readers out there want more of this story.

Thanks for reading my blog! Your comments are always welcome!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

End of Thanksgiving Break, circa 1986

As the sun rises over the Algodones Dunes in a few hours, I will be rising to begin a three week stretch until Christmas Break. (the "Winter" holiday for you PC people who might be reading this). As my history classes have just begun "Medieval Europe", there is a plethora of things I can do with them. But that is NOT what I want to write about.

Years ago, when I started my first full-time teaching job, the end of Thanksgiving Break usually entailed an 6-7 hour drive 'home'. Home was a one-bedroom half of a trailer parked next to a public school in the Navajo Nation. I usually drove down to Phoenix to visit my Grandma and one of my uncles who lived there. Sometimes the trip was fast, other times it was delayed by mother nature, such as the year I hit black ice on highway 89 near Sunset Crater and ended up with my truck stuck off the side of the highway. I was ok after this "ride like you never get at Disneyland" and hitched a ride into Flagstaff. Fortunately, I had friends in Flagstaff whom I could stay the night with. The AAA tow truck wouldn't be available until the next morning. I called my Grandma and told her I'd be late and how about thanksgiving dinner on Friday? She was glad I wasn't hurt and just get there safely.
The next morning, I got a ride out to my truck with the tow truck. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (State Police/Troopers) was there. I explained to the officer what had happened while the tow truck wrenched my truck back onto the highway. No citation or anything as no one was hurt nor was my truck damaged.
Several hours later, I was down in sunny Phoenix. Had dinner out with my Grandma, visited with her and tracked down my uncle at one of his favorite saloons. For several years, this was a typical thanksgiving break.
Now, here it is, years later. Thanksgiving is usually spent with family, but here in the comfort of my own home. There are no long drives to make, weather to worry about or 'saloons' to visit. And for that, I am thankful.

Are you, my readers interested in hearing more stories about my days teaching in the Navajo Nation? Please leave me a comment.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Coffee, Manners and Civility

I got a kick out of the news reports about the coffeeshop owner in Chicago posting a sign regarding the behavior of kids in the coffeeshop with their parent(s).
Imagine, asking the kids to "behave and use their indoor voices"! And, according to the news report, saying that their parents acted like they "had a strong sense of entitlement".

Entitlement to do what? Sit and drink your daily java and ignore your kids??? What kind of parenting is that? YOU parents, where did you learn or get the idea that your children are "entitled" to run amok, yell and scream and generally act like some kind of ferel beasts ANYWHERE in public ???? I guess you must allow this behavior at home also? Boy, will you have fun when your kids hit puberty and their teen years. What then, will you do? My guess, is you will chose to ignore it, just like you are doing now. And, you will probably try to bribe your spawn into some level of acceptable behavior by buying them a new Beemer or Lexus to drive to school and the mall ? Your bratty spawn will make great adults. What will your grandchildren be like ? Yep, even the upper scale families are dysfunctional. Generationally dysfuctional.

I take my boys out for 'coffee' to a local 'Mom and Pop' combo coffee bar, new and used books and teacher supply store. They have been having hot chocolate (and sometimes a donut) there with me for years. They go look at the books and occasionally purchase one. And, at times, they have gotten bored at times, not from getting hot chocolate and donuts, but from being boys with lots of energy refueled by hot chocolate and donuts. They have chased each other about. But, despite whatever good discussion or conversation I am in, I deal with them and remind them that such behavior is not acceptable. And I promise them that we'll go in a minute or two. The are not entitled to act like little barbarians in public. I am not entitled to expect the owners to put up with such behavior in their place of business. In fact, having known these fine people since I was in high school, I am a bit embarrassed that my boys made the choice to behave in such a manner. Maybe that is part of what is happening nationally with our national lack of civility and manners; there is not enough shame in misbehavior, in demonstrating a lack of manners or conducting oneself with a lack of civility and patience. Usually, if they stop their chasing each other, that is the end of it. But if they don't, then I let them know that such behavior will not be tolerated. Their 'punishment"? They don't get to go with me for 'coffee' the next time I go. But they still know that their Dad loves them and wants the best for them.

I am rattling on a bit now. I haven't even touched on behavior in the classroom and at the school.

Thanks for reading my blog! I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What an Observation !

In this mornings newspaper, the weekly science features included an interesting article about the fossil fauna that has been discovered in the Borrego Badlands (part of Anza-Borrego Desert (California) State Park). I pointed out the article to one of my boys. He is perhaps a future paleontologist, and at age eight knows so much more about prehistoric life, especially dinosaurs than I probably will ever know. He looked it over and commented, "Why do they call them "badlands" when you find such good stuff there?" Priceless.

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

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Scott Elliot, an educational journalist who blogs at "Get on the Bus", recently blogs about attending a workshop about "testing and teacher quality." At the EdWonks 30th Edition of the CARNIVAL OF EDUCATION, Scott submitted his post about this workshop, blogging that "both presentations were excellent, but for now I just want to throw out one fascinating tidbit about homework."
Scott wrote, "Kathleen Madigan, a teaching expert with Advantage Schools, told us one of the most important things for parents to pay attention to is homework. Here's what she said:
-Kids who simply have homework assigned to them tend to score better on standardized tests.
-When teachers assign AND collect homework, kids scores go even higher.
-When homework is assigned, collected AND corrected, kids scores are as much as three to four times higher.
-The more feedback a teacher gives on a corrected homework assignment, the better for the student. Teachers who show their work, demonstrating how the problem should have been done correctly rather than simply marking it wrong with a comment will raise the student's standardized tests scores."
It is great for us teachers to assign meaningful homework, be able to collect it, grade it and provide meaningfulnful comments. In theory, this is the way 'it' is supposed to be.
A basic homework requirement for students at our school (at least those taught mostly by the former academic team I was a part of ), are assigned to read over and study what they did in each core class recently, read their AR book for at least 30 minutes, do whatever assignments they received that are due soon, work on any projects that are not immediately due, but are soon due, and to organize their school materials. Most of us core team teachers assign homework that is due in a day or two. Some of the work I assign is simply looked at to see if they did it. Some of it is more intently read and evaluated for correctness and format.
However, reality rears its ugly head. I teach 172 Seventh graders. The vast majority of them are classified as being "basic" or below. I do not have time to grade and provide comments or corrections for each and every assignment I offer my students. And unfortunately despite everything us teachers tell our students, once the students work is returned, that's it for THAT work. It disappears into the black hole of their backpack, gets shoved someplace into a three ring binder or lost or thrown away. Many of our students, unless they are forced to do so, will not pay attention to any comments. Yes, teachers can assign corrections homework to be done, but there are a myriad of problems with this also. Many students won't do it outside of class.
Some strategies I have used to combat the above teaching realities include assigning homework that is a small chunk that can be easily read and commented upon to provide some feedback for my students, such as quick write activities, two or three comprehension questions for a small chunk of standards based text or Social Studies Skills activities (graph/chart/map analysis, two to three paragraphs of text with reading comprehension or spelling questions; stuff like they will encounter on the standardized tests). We also go over the work in class, either just after the work is returned to students, or as part of a review activity prior to a quiz or test. Part of a students "Daily Homework" is also to correct any errors on any work that is returned to them. This is assigned, but not easily monitored by me unless I collect the work again. And sometimes I do collect it again, in the form of student packets. Letting the students know there is a packet due also helps them keep track of their work. I can also see at a glance if they are correcting the questions they got wrong. Unfortunatelyatly, the vast majority of them do not correct their errors. Some, usually those in the "far below basic" category, seem to be uncapable of keeping track of their work. Do any of you who teach in grades 7 - 12 keep folders in your classroom for THESE students? That is one possible way to keep their work together. But, will it help teach them the need for some basic organizational skills ?
I believe most teachers do as much as they can to provide 'meaningful feedback' to their students. If the teacher is not providing such feedback, then it is the students, their parents and the school administration who need to get involved.

What do you do about homework? Does the amount of feedback depend upon how many students are enrolled in your classes ? Does class sizes impact how much work you collect ? Let us know! Thanks for reading my blog, and as always, I welcome your comments!