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, January 30, 2007

Do you have a RAIN COAT ?

Every teacher needs a rain coat. Preferably one made of Kevlar or some other nearly inpenetratable material. Teachers need it when a parent or student or someone else associated with the school or education system spews violently at you.

Today, I told a small number of students to come after school to make up an assignment they hadn't turned in last week. One student came in after school as he'd been asked, and said his parent said he/she didn't have to stay after school. I asked if the parent was waiting for him. I was told no. I commented that not turning in assignments can lead to failure. He/she left.

Later, I called this students home telephone number. The parent was very irate that any teacher would try to keep his/her child after school and even more venomous about telling "a child" that they would fail a class for not turning in work! I'd begun this "conversation" by identifying myself and stating that I was concerned that this student had not turned in two of the three assignments I collected and graded last week. This did not seem to matter. This parent erupted in a tirade about how messed up the schools were and how horrible the teachers were and how abusive they were to "the children" that parents send there to learn.

I told this parent that if they or any parent had a concern or problem with anything I (or any other teacher) did, please talk to the principal. This set off another outburst about the administration just passing the buck, that this parent had tried to talk to the principal, the principal was not there and some secretary passed this parent on to some assistant principal who directed this parent back to that obnoxious secretary.......and that this parent ought to just show up and get in some faces.

I asked if the issues this parent seemed to be having with me and the school was something that had been building up, and this resulted in foul language about trying to psychoanalyze this parent.

Along the course of this "conversation", this parent also loudly mentioned that If they were there, I (Polski3) might just get punched for how I was "abusing this student."

I ended this "conversation" by letting this parent know that the student could still turn in their missing work, and that I needed it turned in by Friday.

Next step is to call my principal to report this "conversation". Maybe the principal will be home this evening.

Wear your raincoat !

Thanks for reading my blog! I welcome your comments.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Noisier classrooms and a Western Bonanza !

Our semester just ended at my junior high school. I had something occur that rarely happens.....I had a class in which no one failed. Most of my classes have several students, who through a combination of factors which include apathy, absences and a lack of effort, fail my class. Happily, there are way more students who earn A's and B's in my class ( which is considered tough by many students, in part because I have high standards, high expectations and sadly, for far too many of my students, my seventh grade class is their first real exposure to social studies.). Anyhow, as a reward for my F-less class, I allowed them "free seating". I knew this would lead to more noise and more difficulty in getting through our activities for the day. But, they earned it. I survived. The increased noise didn't kill me or send me home to drink heavily. And they seemed to enjoy it.

I went out garage selling this morning. One of my boys went with me. He was delighted to find a San Diego Padres T-shirt for a quarter. At the last garage sell we stopped at, there was a box of paperback western books, 98% of them Louis L'Amour novels. I poked through the box, saw a few titles that I don't recall reading, then asked their price. "You can have the whole box for $3.00," declared the lady who was selling stuff. "They were my uncles and he really liked to read westerns." My reply was, of course, "I'll take them!" and I handed her three Sacajawa 'gold' dollar coins. I counted them when I got home. There are 97 Louis L'Amour novels in that box, plus a couple misc. other books. A heck of a deal !

Thanks for reading my blog ! I welcome your comments!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Educational funding......so much Wasted....

I attended a session of a teacher workshop today. It was held at a new County Office of Education facility. Apparently, this facility, located about 25 miles from the main County Office of Education Castle, is used to teach an occasional ROP class or teacher workshop.
This "classroom" we were in featured 20 foot high vaulted ceilings and a flat floor. These features are, IMO, horrid. Where we live in California, the average temperature about six months of the year is over 90 degrees farenheit. Such a 'grand' feature as this vaulted ceiling will cost how many tax dollars to air condition ? As for the floor, why couldn't they make it with auditorium style seating, so that more people could see what was written on one of the three layers of whiteboards? Oh, it also featured a large screen, at least ten foot wide, for the ceiling mounted LCD projector.

So, why am I complaining about this nice new facility, other than those flaws I noted above? Because, IMO, it is not needed. The millions of tax educational dollars the County Office of Education spent for this facility is millions of tax educational dollars NOT going to help the vast majority of students learn. Money not available to the school children of California. How many regular public schools have such things ( LCD projector, big screen, multi-layer whiteboards, their own restroom facilities, chilled, filtered drinking fountains.....) available? Students at my school attend "gym" classes in a decrepid 50-year old plus "gym" which features no water for showering or any form of clean up after having PE, students housed in moldy portable classrooms, sitting in a variety of scruffy, long abused student desks, sitting outside to eat lunch (and it does not matter if it is 115 degrees outside, like it is in Aug., Sept. and Oct. here), etc.Does it matter?

Apparently NOT. The edubureaucrats have millions to spend to construct new, little used facilities for themselves and a few adults. Meanwhile the children of California suffer because the state lawmakers continue to allow such "educational spending" to continue. Yes, my students have books. Their restrooms are suposed to be cleaner (than before) and stocked with TP, soap and towels. But that took a lawsuit to achieve ( Williams v. SFUSD ? ) Prison inmates are allowed many things, because someone sued on their behalf. MAYBE someone needs to sue more often on behalf of the students of California ?

Thanks for reading my blog ! I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Holiday Work...... Test Corections Homework

Hello and I hope this finds you enjoying (or you did enjoy), your day off from teaching in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and all of his efforts on behalf of civil rights for Americans. I also hope that where ever you are, you are staying warm. It is C O L D here in the part of California where I live, IMO, un-naturally cold. So cold that various things of water my sons have in their play area (which they refer to as "Friendlytown") freeze at night. They are delighted to find ice in the mornings. And all around town, most of our ficus (Indian Laurel) trees now host hundreds of brown, frozen leaves. Burrrr.

I have spent part of my day grading "test corrections homework". When I return a test or quiz to my students, they automatically have "corrections homework". They are to take the multiple choice or matching questions and combine the question and answer (hopefully the right answer) into a single statement. If there are true and false questions they got wrong, they are to re-write false statements so that they are true statements. If they said true statements were false, they copy the statement and add, "is a true statement" at the end of the statement. For map questions, they have to draw a copy of the map and correctly label on their map the locations of places they got wrong on the test/quiz. If they missed short answer or essay questions, they have to provide new or more data to fully answer the questions. With all of this, my students can earn one-half point more credit for each "correct" answer. IMO, this helps them bring up their test/quiz scores, helps them learn the material they missed and avoids having re-testing after-school or during classtime.

Do you let students take a test or quiz again? What are your thoughts on my approach to "re-testing" ?

Have a good week !

Thanks for reading my blog! I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Selling to Students ?

IS it OK for teachers to be selling class materials to students, materials such as color pencils, ball point pens....things not provided by the school, things not available for purchase at our "student store", but needed for classes ? Or, should teachers just spend their own money to supply their students with these materials ? Should students who need such materials and the materials are not supplied by parents or the school, "work" for the teacher to earn these school materials?

What do you do in this situation? Please share it with us.

Thanks for reading my blog! I welcome your comments.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Group Work

I saw awhile back on a teacher blog (sorry, it was back in November and I don't recall which blog it was) about the trials and tribulations of allowing your students to work in groups. Some of the research says that this is important for students because someday they will work in a group. So, they need to start to learn to work together for a common goal. It sounds good, but then again, realistically, many students will not work someday in, say, an engineering team designing the latest MHHM (Martian Human Habitat Module). From what I often see out in the world, it seems most people work solo for the most part, with interactions on occasion with co-workers under the direction of a boss. Ah, there is a lesson for our students to learn; follow directions from your boss. Anyhow, here is what Polski3 does regarding groups.

Start small...work in pairs, providing explict instructions on the tasks and behavior expectations. Then, when they have more or less mastered pair work, work up to a group of three, then four, constantly reminding them of the task and behavoir expectations.

I also teach my students a lesson in choice. In my first group assignment of the school year, I let them choose the group (usually something small, in groups of no more than two or three students) they wish to work with. Many do not make good choices. This lesson is reinforced by their group grade. Many discover that the people they enjoy socializing and messing around with are not the best students or not very capable of keeping to the task. Many groups find that it is usually one member of the group that does the majority of the work. These students, who do most of the work, get admonished by their parent(s) for their poor choices in work-mates. I also get a few parents requesting of me, NOT to let their child ever work with such and such a child because of a variety of reasons. And on several occasions over the years, a few parents have gone so far as to request that their child's schedule is changed to help keep them away from some "evil child". Yes, you can assign specific jobs or roles within the group, but in my experience in social studies (it worked better in science having a team leader, gopher, recorder, equiptment manager) this takes more time in teaching each about their role/job and often seriously cuts into the time you need for getting the activity completed.

From there, my future group activities usually are in groups that I create. And, by that time of the school year, those that will/can will work with others that will/can; those who are not prone to producing in a group situation (or anytime else for that matter) will have the option of working on the project (or a variation of the project), with others like themselves, or solo. I never force a student to work with someone else.

What do you do regarding group activities in your classroom ? Please share it with us.

Thank you for reading my blog. I welcome your comments.

Monday, January 01, 2007

OHMAGAWD ! A New Report: Schools need to be radically Changed !

It doesn't stop, does it. Here is yet another report about how to fix public education in the United States, this one concocted by the "New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce". The NCSAW declares that "unless US schools are improved radically, the country's standard of living will plunge over the next 20 years."

Guess what folks! In my opinion, the standard of living in the US, at least for the hoards of us not in the higher socio-economic levels, has already plunged, at least from my perspective. I know that even with frugal, conscience, vigilant care, I can spend less money for things I want than I used to. My teaching salary has not kept up with inflation or the ever rising cost of basic living necessities (groceries, gasoline, utilities, etc.). But that is not what I want to write about here.

This NCSAW cites studies that many other countries are offering the world's employers highly skilled work forces at a lower price than American labor. They particularly cite the Indians and Chinese.

OK, here we have two new entries into the "Countries-who-are-educating-their- youth-better-than-the-US" game, the Chinese and Indians. I could cite the fact that these countries, like the Germans, Japanese, Koreans, et. al., that educate their youth better than the US, do not teach the wide culturally different group of students that we teach. But, IMO, more importantly, these other countries link educational opportunites for advancement to test scores and student achievement, as opposed to the social promotion, political correctness and entitlement that pollutes the US public school system. Oh, and AFAIK, the US DOES lead the world by a wide margin in the amount of money spent on educational bureaucracy. ( So I guess that saying the US lags behind many other countries in education is not true ????? )

Lets look at China and India. Both have huge populations. AFAIK, people in these countries lack the sense of entitlement found in too many people in the US. These people know that a life of manual labor in their medieval agricultural systems or long hours in a factory for little pay and living in a crowded, filthy hovel are among the choices for the uneducated. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity, many families in China and India jump at the chance for their children to attend school. Motivation and purpose; a better education means a better life. Period.

IMO, such motivations are lacking for too many US students. Too many of their families say they support their children's schools and teachers, but the reality is the parents and their children are not taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to them. They believe the promise of a life of manual labor does not await their children. Far too many US children believe they are entitled to finish high school or college then step into a high paying job that will finance the cars, homes, electronics toys / collections, vacations, etc., that they believe they are entitled. The promise and reality of working in the agricultural fields, the slaughterhouses, cleaning homes, offices, motel rooms, washing dishes at a restaurant or hospital, working in construction or the other manual labor jobs usually worked by those from the lower socio-economic level people of our society are not for them. Oh, a few US students come to believe they don't need an education because these are the types of jobs awaiting them anyway, because that is what their parents do. Others may think that because Dad or Mummy are lawyers, doctors, engineers, MBA's, CPA's, etc., that they will automatically be getting a high paying, socially prestigious job someday regardless of how they perform in school. Many immigrants come to the US, legally or illegally, because the US is a land of opportunity, opportunity that sadly and tragically, too many people here take for granted and whom have lost the drive, the gumption, the necessary work ethnic that once made the US THE world leader in just about everything.

The thinkers of the NCSAW believe that one change needed in US public education is to end high school prior to grades 11-12 for most students and use the money from these grades to pay the other teachers a higher salary and fund pre-schools for 4-year olds and low income 3-year olds. The 9-10th graders who couldn't pass a state-run exam based on national standards and world class skills, would be kept in high school until they did pass this "yet-to-be-created" exam. After students pass the test, they'd move on to community college or job training, or, for those on the "college track", take AP or IB coursework to prepare them for university. While I have not read the report, the article I read did not cite a sourse of funding for the community colleges or job training.

The NCSAW also suggest schools be taken over by states for the supervision and funding of schools, reducing the management function of school boards. They also advocated the creation of teacher-organized "contract schools" that would operate independently and be judged by meeing state standards ( ie: passing the test

IMO. the bottom line is if you want "radical changes in schools", you will need radical changes in the attitudes and expectations of parents and their children. I think some of the suggestions by the NCSAW are valid, but then again, what will they look like after the bloated, self-serving educational bureaucracy get their hands on them ?

Thanks for reading my blog ! I welcome your comments.