I hope she’ll be back

It’s hot. The seating chart’s a mess, filled with swaps, arrows, moves and marker. One of my students offers to rewrite it for me. She always offers to help. Will she make it to the end of this year? She’s already showing so I don’t think so. I hope she’ll return. She’s diligent, helpful and hard-working, traits that can lead to academic success even in a single-parent household where English is a second language. Soon she’ll be a single parent of two, though. Education doesn’t usually survive that burden.

I don’t have any answers here.

Rescuing students

I took them to every air-conditioned space I could find. Parents kept calling them out. The two obviously pregnant girls were gone by my last class. They should never have come in the first place. This was a crazy day to hold school. It’s nearly 8:00 at night now and it’s 89 degrees, still too hot to walk the dog. My classroom was in the nineties and muggy to boot. I was honestly unsteady on my feet by the end of the day and my judgement was clouded. In retrospect, I doubt I was in condition to drive home.

Too hot for learning

Outside it was 95 degrees. Inside I don’t think it made 90. I’m not sure. Maybe it did. It was dauntingly hot regardless. Only the spray bottle saved me. It’s extremely hard to learn in that sticky, oppressive heat. It’s at least that hard to teach.

Especially in poor districts, there are still many schools without air-conditioning systems.

If this keeps up for a few weeks, my meltdown may be impossible to prevent.

Eduhonesty: We are starting schools earlier and earlier in order to be ready when state testing rolls around in the spring. But in poor districts, air-conditioning may never have been installed. My district started in the middle of August, as has become common, and I’d like to declare that early start a probable waste of time.

Like farmers, teachers in these old schools are at the mercy of the weather. Early fall is blazing away in the Midwest, sun trapped by walls of windows, heat rising to second floors where fans are useless. Above the mid-eighties, fans simply don’t work. Students don’t work either. I take them to air-conditioned spaces, but I am sharing these spaces with other teachers. Lessons are presented in abbreviated form. Individual instruction time is high but group time has been gutted by the need to be considerate of colleagues’ classes.

We have lost a great deal of time in the last two weeks to soaring temperatures. We should have started after Labor Day, as schools once did.

I want my lost two weeks back.

“Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness.” ~ Woody Allen (1935 – )

This sounds like a lesson plan. We use big words. We use action verbs. I can’t write “students will review division” or at least that’s viewed as substandard. Students need to be actively involved! If I write “students will derive an algorithm for dividing integers” that’s apt to go over much better with administration.

My lesson plans are artful examples of polysyllabic overkill, filled with action verbs. My students infer, derive, adjudicate, authenticate, reconcile, substantiate, contextualize, ratiocinate, synthesize, poeticize and even posterize.

Eduhonesty: Students never just review or learn. That’s part of the reason for these 5 page lesson plans. I’m not sure if we are building student’s vocabularies but we are certainly adding words to our teacher’s “internal lexicons.” Sometimes I wish I could just write “students will review division”, though — since that happens to be what we are doing.

No subs here

Remember subs?

I remember subs. I even know a few.

I helped console a sub awhile back. He told me the students had been singing loudly and screaming in class all day. They had even screamed AT him at one point.

That sub does not plan to be back and I don’t blame him.

In our more difficult urban and impoverished school districts, classes often double up because no sub can be found. Given how hard the kids can be on subs, I’m not sure that much, if any, learning loss results.

Eduhonesty: “Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build
and nobody wants to do maintenance.”  ~ Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007)

Discipline is at an all-time low out here. Well-meaning counselors and deans endlessly talk to students, trying to help them understand why their behavior should change. I have a news flash for those counselors and deans: Most of those kids know exactly what they did and why it was wrong. They are experts at telling stories that adults want to hear.

These once and future thugs don’t need to “reflect.” They don’t need second, third, fourth, etc. chances. They need consequences. Consequences might result in some reflection. They might result in the district managing to keep a few more subs. As a teacher, I have the leverage of grades to use to influence behavior. I also have a relationship with individual students. But subs rely on student goodwill and the threat of consequences from the Dean’s office to hold their classrooms together.

Eduhonesty: Sympathetic listening has its place, but it also builds thugs. Those students who were singing loudly while that sub tried to talk? They should have been suspended. That singing and screaming was an act of aggression against the sub and the excuse, “We was just singing!” is unworthy of any discussion or reflection. These kids are smarter than that. They knew exactly what they were doing.


Thursday night

I came home and plunged into work. I’ve spent hours completing my lesson plans for my four different classes, due tomorrow, and completing a questionnaire related to an assessment I am going to be obliged to give next week, and then again at the end of the grading period. The questionnaire also comes due tomorrow. I’m about to retire for the night so I can stumble out of bed tomorrow as early as possible to drive to school to finish these tasks.

What I did not do was any preparation for actual instruction. I had no time.

Eduhonesty: Of course I need a lesson plan. But the part where I find the college readiness standards, the Illinois standards and the Common Core standards and then record those standards in order to document that I am meeting standards sucks time away from my students. To meet all administrative requirements, I am required to produce a five-page document where a one- to two-page document would do. The questionnaire was related to the need to demonstrate scoring improvement by students over the year. If this night of writing had been an extremely rare occurrence, I’d have let it go, but such evenings are becoming standard for many teachers.

When I have to produce these papers, I can’t be writing a PowerPoint or cutting out shapes for a new activity. I can’t be looking online for  a great lesson idea. I can’t be grading student papers. School has barely started, I have been running full-tilt, almost nonstop, and I am already behind on my grading.

I’m sure I have many counterparts in other schools, too.


Carts before horses

Testing gurus and educational administrators are trying to teach America’s children to think. I’m not against thinking. But I will observe that thinking comes somewhat naturally to this species.

If we fill our students’ heads with facts, they will think. But you can’t think (clearly) until you actually know something and know it reasonably well. Too many students have learned too little to effectively think about the topics they are given.

Eduhonesty: Recent generations are ripe for deception. They don’t have the knowledge base to recognize propaganda and they don’t understand the need to acquire that knowledge base. We have let them retrieve too often and we have forced them to memorize too little.

Proof that evolution CAN go in reverse

You couldn’t make this stuff up. I am divided between ducking in horror and falling down laughing.

Obama math: under new Common Core, 3 x 4 = 11

The Daily CallerThe Daily Caller – 9 hrs ago

Quick: what’s 3 x 4?

If you said 11 — or, hell, if you said 7, pi, or infinity squared — that’s just fine under the Common Core, the new national curriculum that the Obama administration will impose on Americanpublic school students this fall.

In a pretty amazing YouTube video, Amanda August, a curriculum coordinator in a suburb of Chicago called Grayslake, explains that getting the right answer in math just doesn’t matter as long as kids can explain the necessarily faulty reasoning they used to get to that wrong answer.

“Even if they said, ’3 x 4 was 11,’ if they were able to explain their reasoning and explain how they came up with their answer really in, umm, words and oral explanation, and they showed it in the picture but they just got the final number wrong, we’re really more focused on the how,” August says in the video.

When someone in the audience (presumably a parent, but it’s not certain) asks if teachers will be, you know, correcting students who don’t know rudimentary arithmetic instantly, August makes another meandering, longwinded statement.

“We want our students to compute correctly but the emphasis is really moving more towards the explanation, and the how, and the why, and ‘can I really talk through the procedures that I went through to get this answer,’” August details. “And not just knowing that it’s 12, but why is it 12? How do I know that?”

It’s worth going to this URL.



Eduhonesty: This country is filled with mathematicians who learned their times tables without exploring the theory of multiplication. If you go back 30 years, you’ll find the country was also much better at math. I return to a favorite quote:

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
― Thomas Sowell (a Stanford economist worth looking up)


Not selling my body for books yet!

From http://news.yahoo.com/shock-claim-40-000-public-school-teachers-moonlight-133404548.html:

Shock claim: 40,000 public school teachers moonlight on sugar-daddy website

The Daily Caller

21 hours ago  EducationMedia

Believe it when The Daily Caller tells you: If you find any fault with public school teachers, you will definitely hear about how very hard they work, and how they care so much about making the world a better place.

The Daily Caller now has evidence that the many spirited defenders of the old profession of teaching are right in many exciting, stimulating ways.

SeekingArrangement.com, which bills itself as “the #1 online dating website for sugar babies and generous men,” is now boasting that some 40,000 public school teachers of a certain moral caliber have joined the website in an attempt to sell sexual services seek wealthy, older men for “mutually beneficial relationships.”

In a press release, SeekingArrangement’s CEO suggests that teachers on the website are responding conventionally to diminished budgets, overcrowded classrooms and, of course, the perpetual need for school supplies.

“You can’t expect a teacher to accept less pay for more work than their peers, and then reach into their pockets to fund your child’s classroom,” declared Brandon Wade, the website’s founder and CEO. “But that’s what’s happening. If those are the expectations and pressures we are putting on our teachers in America, than they can’t possibly be judged for whatever extracurricular activities they choose to pursue to stay afloat.”

According to SeekingArrangement, the top five school districts in the country for sugar-baby teachers are (in order): the School District of Philadelphia, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, the Clark County School District (in the Las Vegas area) and the New York City public schools.

Data is self-reported by the women who use the site when they initially sign up.

“Based on the occupation field ‘teacher,’ we polled members to see which school districts they worked in,” explained Jennifer Gwynn, SeekingArrangement’s public relations manager, in an email to The Daily Caller.

Eduhonesty: I’m sympathetic to these teachers. I commonly spend over $500 of my own money for my classroom each year. I work in a poor district where supplies are scarce. Some years, I may have spent over $1,000 in ink cartridges, pencils, Clorox wipes, emergency breakfast food, bags of candy for bingo prizes, etc. Random shopping stops just come with the territory. But the part where we start selling our bodies to buy sets of “To Kill a Mockingbird” seems like it might be just one or two steps over the line.

Ummm…Can I start robbing banks? Maybe the science department could brew brandy like monks from the middle ages. Microbrews are another strong possibility. The radio jingle might go something like this:

District Seven Ale, me lads, District Seven Ale,
The finest drink that any bar has ever had for sale,
It’ll lay your whole damn world to waste, it’ll make you fit and hale,
There’s nothing that you’ll ever taste like District Seven Ale, me lads,
District Seven Ale.

(If you want to see the original song, go to http://www.tomsmithonline.com/lyrics/307_ale.htm. You can also find Tom Smith on youtube and he sells some of the best music for geeks ever.)

For that matter, how about selling marijuana — for medicinal purposes, of course — at PTA functions?  The ubiquitous weird red punch could be paired with $5 brownies and other green, leafy pastries. Meetings might be a lot less contentious, while attendance would probably skyrocket.

It’s not the 1800s and teachers are held to looser standards today than ever before, but where do we draw the line? I found this article funny but the concept’s also disturbing. I’m not too badly paid, thanks to a ridiculous amount of formal education, but I can see where some of my new colleagues with a bachelor’s degree might be struggling to keep themselves in Clorox wipes. Still…


Sexual harassment

Nobody should harass nobody. No how. No way. Especially sexually.

I just summed up a segment of a district-wide meeting that took the speaker around 1/2 hour to get through. Oh, the speaker added a few more details. I should add the part about calling human resources if asking the perpetrator to stop does not work.

Eduhonesty: If you are smart enough to teach, you should recognize harassment. For that matter, if you can teach in a poor or urban school district, you can probably hand that harasser his or her dismembered head on the proverbial platter after feeding any loose brains to your pet zombie.