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?"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

RIP Paul Harvey

When I got online this evening, I saw that the great radio man Paul Harvey had passed away. God, what a voice, what a way to tell us the news and try to sell us a Select Comfort bed (which he helped do) or a Bose wave radio (someday). In my younger days of piddling around with Journalism, I used to be able to hear Paul Harvey proudly announce, "STAND BY FOR NEWS!" I'd always wished I could write like he could speak.

And, as a history person, I loved his great "And now, HERE'S the REST OF THE STORY." I have missed listening to Paul Harvey News. Now he's gone. I did find out by reading the article, that he got his start in Tulsa. I didn't know Paul was an Okie. But, where ever he was born, America has lost one of our Greats. I wish peace to his wife Angel and his family.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Funding CUTS for California Education - Here's a money saving Idea !

Well, I see our comrades in the People's Congress, oops, I mean the California State Legislature have decided that their continued spending must be helped by cutting Eight Billion Dollars from California Public Schools.

Sadly, I'll predict that the cuts will come to schools; teachers, instructional aides, school medical staff, supplies (including textbooks!) will be cut. There will be fewer athletic activities for high school students (our local h.s. district is eliminating freshman sports). How many cuts will come from the State Department of Education? County Offices of Education? School District Offices? Because of the huge amount being cut, probably a few token jobs. But it will be the children, especially the struggling children in California schools who will bear the brunt of this act by California's so-called leaders.

Here is an idea to save most school districts some money. Change the rules for teachers retirement. Offer those teachers with 25+ years teaching in California the opportunity to retire at age 55 with the same benefits they'd receive by retiring at age 60+. Everyone knows, "newer" teachers are cheaper. There is public press blathering about the newer, energetic younger teachers always losing their jobs because of the unions and their staunch stand on seniority; "last hired,first fired." This would create jobs for those younger, more energetic new teachers.

Yes, Polski3 happens to be in that category of having 25+ years in California public schools when I hit age 55. I'd be happy to retire at that time, if I received the benefits currently only available for those who retire at age 60+. But with the current system, if I went out at age 55, I'd only get about half of what I'd get at age 60+.

HEY CTA, are you listening to this? Here is something you can push for many of your members ! Remember them?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No Changes Forcast for California History-Soc. Sci. Content Standards

I received today, an interesting e-mail from the folks at TCI (Teacher's Curriculum Institute), which included this:

"News from California Department of Education
The California Department of Education (CDE) is updating the Framework for History-Social Sciences to ensure that it reflects the current research and best practices in history education. The work on the 2010 framework began last year when CDE conducted teacher focus groups at four locations across the state. At these sessions teachers shared what they liked and disliked about the current framework and what they thought should be incorporated into the new framework. At these sessions, CDE staff was careful to note that the changes to the frameworks will not include any modifications of the current History-Social Science Content Standards. These can only be changed when there is legislation that directs CDE to update or modify content standards.

The next step in the framework revision process is to begin the writing. In early February, a committee of 20 educators will be looking at creating new chapters on assessment and universal access, two areas that teachers in the focus groups wanted to see expanded.

TCI will be at each of the framework committee meetings and will bring you the latest on changes through this newsletter. If you would like a sneak peek of what to expect from the framework committee, take a look at the California Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee Guidelines that have been approved by the State Board of Education. You can find these on the CDE Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/hsscfccguidelines.asp. "

I had heard that something was in the works to change the California State Framework for Social Studies. I would have been interested in attending one of those meetings and being part of a "committee of educators" who are to be involved in this process. However, I am saddened to see this part:

"CDE staff was careful to note that the changes to the frameworks will not include any modifications of the current History-Social Science Content Standards. These can only be changed when there is legislation that directs CDE to update or modify content standards."

Why am I saddened by this? Take a look at the standards for California History-Social Science. They are HUGE. H U G E ! There is way too much stuff in there, so much that I do not believe the majority of it gets taught. Yes, some of it is "covered," but not taught. There is simply too much there.

And, since the focus of NCLB will apparently remain Language Arts and Math, I foresee little hope that much History and Social Studies will be taught in our Elementary schools; History and Social Studies will continue to be the neglected foster child of lower level education, especially at school districts such as the one where I teach that consists of mostly "failing" (by NCLB standards) schools.

However, with Polski3 looking at something positive for a change, I see that it requires "legislative action to update or modify content standards." I can and will share my thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas regarding our current Californian History-SS content standards with my elected reps in Sacramento.

Thanks for reading this post. Have a Super rest of the week !

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Calif. League of Middle Schools Conference

Any of you other MS/JHS teachers going to this years California League of Middle Schools Conference in San Diego, March 12-15 ? I'm going, and will be presenting. It should be fun. The last time I presented a workshop at a teachers conference, it was at CLMS in San Diego, on March 11, 1995. I did my presentation (Science Activities for US History) and was heading for the commercial displays, when another teacher from my school stopped me and told me the conference organizers were trying to find me. I went to the conference organizers area and found out that Mrs. Polski3 has called and I was needed at home ASAP. I quickly left San Diego for the drive home, and at 9:24 PM that evening, our first son was born. (He was two weeks or so early....but a healthy, hungry baby boy!)....damn, he's going into high school NEXT semester....has it been THAT long ????

Anyhow, THAT won't happen this time. Maybe some ms/jhs bloggers could meet sometime during this conference ?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

History Interventions

Our department has also been tasked to find interventions for re-teaching material students as a group did not score too well on based on our department test scores. I've done google searched for "history interventions" and pretty much come up with blanks. We've been told by administration to use the test questions that students as a group did not score well on, as opener (bell ringer) questions. IMO, this might work fine for subjects such as math and Language Arts, but since history is taught more topically, having opener questions about "Contributions of Ancient Rome" does not go too well when our current topic of study is China. We as a department are not too willing to take out a day or two to go back to try to "reteach" that material that as a group, our students did not score well on in the department tests. We have too many standards to try to touch on.

Our 8th Grade US History people, they are being expected to go back to "touch on" World History standards for grades 6 and 7, as well as some stuff from grade 5 US History. ( please note, that in the public school district where I teach, our feeder schools do not teach much, if any history; the vast majority of our students come to us knowing almost nothing about the past history of people on this planet nor do they know such basic things as the names of the oceans and continents or being able to read a map to determine names of countries from names of cities, mountains, etc.) I try to also cover some of the "A-ranked" Grade Six history standards while teaching my Grade Seven standards. But there is just so little time and way too many standards. I really wish the folks at the California State Department of Education would get their heads out of their (you know whats), find out what really happens in classrooms and talk to the "experts" ( teachers )and develop History/Social Studies Standards with what is really vital and important in helping our students become educated, good citizens with a grasp of history, geography and civic understanding.

Do you "re-teach" history ? What do you do regarding History interventions?

No Homework equals TOO MANY F's

At my school, there are more students in our history classes earning "below proficient" and "far below proficient" grades than ever before. In meeting as a department, we find that for the vast majority of these students is because they are not turning in homework. We debated on the nature of our homework ( which can be anything from working on projects, reading text materials, working on social studies skills activities and or demonstrating comprehension of material covered in class. ).

I try to assign my students who did not turn in homework time after school to come in to make it up with me there if they need help or clarification with it. If for some reason the student absolutely cannot come after school for me, I have an option for them of getting the work, doing it at home then having a parent sign it to indicate the parent knows it is make up work. I also mark students daily planners when they do not have their assignment to turn in. Other teachers say, "too bad, you had your chance," to holding make up work sessions on Saturday mornings.
We almost have to have these alternative options because many of our students are in some sort of remedial after school program for "subjects that are test important."

Is this lack of turning in homework an issue at your school, in your classroom ? What do you do about a lack of effort ? Please share it with us !