Tip #18: Sleep!

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The start of the school year can be nuts. Many teachers cut sleep to get rooms ready, lessons prepared, and required administrative paperwork done. I asked a young teacher how she was doing this week and she responded by speechlessly breaking into tears. She had been cutting sleep for days. By the end of her week she was about two days short of sleep.

Don’t do this!! You will probably get sick. For one thing, sick kids frequently come to school at the start of the year. You may also lose your sense of humor, an almost essential component to setting up a good relationship with your students. At worst, you will end up blasting someone in administration for making yet another stupid paperwork demand. A few missing hours here, a few missing hours there, and your margin of patience can evaporate, leading you to tell the assistant principal exactly what you think of the new requirement for a spreadsheet documenting all student reading progress over the last six years, this document due by Friday.

Eat. Sleep enough so that you can enjoy your day. When the kids say something funny, you want to enjoy that moment.

Set a bedtime if you must, and try your hardest to stick to that bedtime. I recommend scheduling regular massages, and yoga or martial arts classes as well. Get a pedicure. Take the dog for a long walk in the forest preserve. Be kind to yourself.

So many teachers nowadays are walking into schools with huge cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. I’m a big coffee fan myself, but when it takes more than 24 ounces to wake up, I say, “Stand up for sleep, rest and relaxation!”

Tip #17: Only Be a Coward if You Must

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(Hi newbies! I expect this post to be highly controversial. But my mission at the moment is to help teachers, so I wrote this advice, which I view as good for teachers and regrettable for America. Please pass this on. I think my observations will be true in many schools and districts — and fortunately untrue in many others — so I want new teachers especially to see this post.)

To go back to a line from my previous post, picked up in a past professional development:

A “D” is a coward’s “F.”

That line resonated with me. The issue’s trickier than one might think at first glance. In this time when teachers are often held responsible for student learning, virtually without regard for the characteristics of the students in their classrooms, that “F” can come back to bite a teacher, especially if parents storm the bastion of administration.

I hate this piece of advice. I don’t like to give advice that might compromise someone’s integrity. But here it is: Be very careful about passing out those “F” grades. Sometimes you may want to take the coward’s way out if you are a new teacher — or if you are an experienced teacher under a new principal.

That “D” is likely to fly mostly below the radar. Parents usually know if their kid has been doing a schlock job academically and they will rarely fight a passing grade in this circumstance. As soon as a kid moves below passing, though, the firestorm may start. Trouble will likely begin when dad or mom asks Freddie about his grade.

“How could you fail social studies?” (Freddie’s on the spot now.)

“The teacher never teaches anything,” he replies. “She just shows slides and stuff but she never explains.”

“Did you ask her to explain?”

“I try, but she never answers my questions. She does not like me.”

The conversation will keep spinning from there, as Freddie attempts to avoid taking personal responsibility for not having done his work or studied for his tests. Freddie may succeed in convincing his parents that YOU are the reason he failed, especially if Freddie has just started failing classes. Some parents will always take their kids’ sides regardless of the facts. If Freddie failed to turn in thirteen out of twenty assignments, those parents will blame you for not having somehow forced Freddie to do the work.

Kids who are on track in elementary school sometimes fall off the track in middle school or high school, overwhelmed by organizational and academic issues. Many kids in our system have been passed on and passed on despite poor work until they have fallen years behind other, academically stronger peers. These kids have a track record of passing classes. If suddenly they are failing YOUR class, that grade can be viewed as a mark against you.

It’s not fair. It’s not smart on the part of administration, either. But too many “F” grades may reflect poorly on you, especially when the administration does not know you yet. When Freddie’s parents start criticizing you in front of the principal, you have a problem, no matter how diligently you have been working.

I am not saying to never give a well-deserved “F.” If you do fail a student, though, be sure you can document your reasons. If you have too many “F” grades at semester’s end, talk to older, experienced colleagues about the likely ramifications of giving those grades. If allowed, you may wish to tweak the gradebook, upping the percentage given to homework, for example. In desperate circumstances, when the gradebook percentages are fixed, you may wish to design a test to pull up overall percentages.

I’d love to see more integrity in the grading process. Why do we have so many illiterate and innumerate students? Because we keep passing them when they don’t know the year’s material! But I have also seen colleagues suffer for their attempts to stick to their principles. In this time when teachers tend to get the blame for students’ poor performance, clueless administrators may view your lower grades as documentation of your lower performance. That view may color your evaluation and even affect your retention.

Tip #17.5: When a kid starts to struggle academically, be sure to phone and email home. Keep a record of those contacts. As a teacher, you want those parents to help you with your efforts as you try to fix any deteriorating situation.  You want them to check on the homework and be sure some studying happens before the test. Also, you SO do not want parents to go to the Principal and say, “We had no idea he was doing badly.”

Tip #17.75: Keep samples of Freddie’s work. Keep all tests and quizzes, Copy particularly poor work examples that might otherwise be thrown away after papers are handed back. This tip argues for portfolios, but you cannot trust Freddie to put substandard papers in that portfolio. If you end up in a grade dispute, those papers may prove invaluable. Besides, you will want to discuss Freddie’s work when his parents (hopefully) come in for conferences.

High School as a Babysitter

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http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/education_futures/2015/08/10_reasons_the_us_education_system_is_failing.html?_ga=1.127480974.2017019900.1470268009

From 10 Reasons the U.S. Education System Is Failing b

80 percent of students are graduating high school…yet less than half of these students are ready for what’s next.

The U.S. Education Department reports that the high school graduation rate is at an all-time high at 80 percent.  Four out of five students are successful in studies completion and graduate within four years. While these statistics sound like a reason for a standing ovation, they are overshadowed by the crisis that is sweeping the United States. While 80 percent of high school seniors receive a diploma, less than half of those are able to proficiently read or complete math problems.

The problem is that students are being passed on to the next grade when they should be held back, and then they are unable to complete grade-level work and keep up with their classmates.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest standardized test administered in the United States, reports that fewer than 40 percent of graduating seniors have mastered reading and math and are poorly equipped for college and real world life.  These students who are passed to the next grade are at a serious disadvantage and have an increased chance of falling behind and dropping out of college.

The following is item # 8 on the list. I find the placement of # 8 to be funny. Above # 8, we have parent involvement, school crowding and lack of diversity in gifted education among others.  Overcrowding is # 3 and gifted education is # 5. Ummm… odd order to this list. It’s like making a list of hazards in Jurassic Park and putting the T-Rex and raptors after food-borne pathogens in the potato salad.

But, whatever, it’s a good list and I wanted to put these numbers out. That group of more than half of high school graduates who cannot read well and complete math problems? They received a high school diploma for their efforts. They are done now. Very, very few of these students who cannot read proficiently by the age of 18 will manage to finish a university or even a community college program. As we graduate more of these students, we are also devaluing the high school diploma. When I received my diploma, an employer could be assured that my diploma combined with my high G.P.A. guaranteed basic literacy. Now, no such reassurance can be offered.

Eduhonesty: Some countries have exit tests set up at various grades. If you don’t pass the 3rd grade exit test, you don’t go on to 4th grade. Maybe the U.S. needs to consider these tests. If students cannot pass, they are not promoted. Schools should then provide intensive tutoring to help students pass their test, allowing retakes near summer’s end. I’d also allow kids to stay in school longer than the 20-year-old cut-off in most states. If a student drops out, that student should be able to get back on the bus if they realize their mistake quickly enough.

This business of passing kids along ,has to stop. Social advantages to being kept with students of your own age aside, what’s the good of a diploma that does not even guarantee that you can read, write and do basic math? Eventually that diploma will only be slightly more (less?) valuable than toilet paper to graduates. Many positions that used to require only a high school education now require some college or even a college degree. For an employer, college has become proof of literacy that a high school diploma can no longer provide.

Those kids who graduated unable to write a coherent paragraph or tally up their restaurant bill? At some stage, we had stopped teaching them and started babysitting them. I’m not blaming teachers here. When a sixteen-year-old boy takes his mind off the educational market, often a teacher can do little or nothing. I have called home on various “Freddies.” I have talked for hours to counselors, parents and truant officers, while Freddie went to his girlfriend’s house to smoke dope and then sometimes wandered in late with bloodshot eyes, no book, no pencil and a goofy smile.

I’d like to make an observation from time in the trenches: Some of our Freddies make it to high school graduation. They receive enough “D” grades in place of earned “F” grades to make credit totals.* Attempts to increase school graduation rates keep administrators from showing our Freddies to the door. In the end, though, our kindest move might be booting Freddie at sixteen so that he could go to work mowing lawns or serving burgers. We could then offer him a chance at night school so he can catch up, graduate high school and become the literate graduate we ought to be sending out into the world.

*Favorite quote from a past professional development: “A “D” is a coward’s “F.”

Tip #16: Add Endorsements

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(A tip mostly for newbies but also for teachers who might like a change in position.)

The terminology may be different where you are teaching. I am a certified teacher with multiple endorsements. I am endorsed to teach social studies, language arts, general science, math (high school but not middle school), and French and Spanish. I also have bilingual and ESL endorsements. Clearly, I love going to school.

Once I had a seventh- and eighth-grade, self-contained bilingual classroom. Those classrooms are rare at the middle-school level but I met the requirements to create that mix. I loved that group of kids and I still keep track of a number of them some six years later. I visited one girl in the hospital after knee and elbow surgery just last week.

Some teachers reading this blog may have decided to teach language arts, gotten their certification and appropriate endorsement, taken a position and stopped there. I strongly advise taking stock of what other endorsements you might be able to add to your credentials. Did you minor in history? Take a bunch of science courses for fun? Are you only one geometry course short of that math endorsement? If so, take the geometry course and apply for the endorsement. Get all the endorsements you can. Take a few college courses if those courses will add to your credentials.

In Illinois, each of those applications cost money, a deterrent to applying, especially for new teachers who are trying to figure out how to afford gas and food first. You might think that language arts suits you and you are doing fine, But the ground shifts quickly under educators today. If all you can teach is language arts, you may be digging yourself into a hole.

In a public school position, when you are riffed, teachers with more seniority commonly can take your position, Let’s say you and Marty are riffed, but Marty has six more months in the system than you do. Even if Marty taught science, Marty can take your language arts position if Marty has the necessary endorsement. Let’s say you are released into a tough market. That teacher who can teach math and science has an edge over teachers who can only teach one subject. Multiple endorsements offer schools flexibility. They can give their new hire four math classes and two science classes, saving the need for further hiring and simplifying scheduling.

Other reasons to add endorsements sooner rather than later:

  1. Course requirements often go up for endorsements. I have never seen them go down. Special education endorsements now demand more college credits than ten years ago, for example. Those six to eight extra credits may cost you another couple of thousand dollars, not to mention the extra time required to take evening and week-end classes.
  2. The more recent your college experience, the better you are likely to do on associated tests. Technically speaking, I did not have to test to teach some courses for which I received endorsements. But I did test for Spanish, mathematics and high school social studies. Schools may demand teachers pass the certification test for a particular subject before handing those teachers the key to the classroom.
  3. Wherever you are, the price to add endorsements and tests likely has been going up, too. My memory’s a bit hazy but I am pretty sure that my first subject matter tests cost around $60 apiece. Those tests now cost $122.
  4. As test demands become more stringent, you may lose benefits by testing later. When the number of credits for the special education endorsement increased, teachers who did not yet have the endorsement suddenly needed to take extra classes, but those who had already qualified to teach special education were “grandfathered” in and did not require more than the usual professional development (PD). When I took the high school social sciences test, I was allowed to test in history even though my coursework was in political science. By passing, I acquired the right to teach history, civics, political science, economics, anthropology and psychology. At the high school level, coursework demands have become much more specific since then.
  5. You probably are required to add professional development credits toward continuing certification. College credits can generally be applied to professional development needs. In Illinois, they are worth a fair amount of PD coinage. In most schools, those credits will eventually translate into a pay raise. Teacher pay tends to be based on experience and educational credit totals.
  6. Night and week-end college classes look good to administrators.
  7. Extra college courses can be fun. I especially loved my geometry and linguistics classes. I had linguistics timed so I ended up across from the Art Institute of Chicago at lunchtime, thanks to a convenient National Louis University campus.
  8. You may eventually crave a change in your daily teaching responsibilities. If you have the required endorsement, you may be able to shift from math to science when an opening arises in your district. You will have an easier time finding a position in another district, too.

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Where will the poets and sculptors go?

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From http://nypost.com/2016/08/17/petition-wants-hs-principal-fired-for-pushing-academics/,

Petition wants HS principal fired for pushing academics

How dare she!

More than 3,500 students, teachers and parents have signed an online petition in just two days this week demanding the ouster of the principal of famed La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts because she — gasp! — has the audacity to stress academics in addition to performing talent.

“Since the 2013 arrival of Principal Dr. Lisa Mars, LaGuardia’s admission process has been radically altered in favor of academic scores and attendance records,” thechange.org petition charges.

“With these new admission criteria, talent counts for only 14% of the admission decision. As a result, hundreds of qualified and gifted students have been denied admission.”

Student talent had previously counted for well over 50 percent in the admissions process at the Upper West Side school, sources said.

More can be found at the above site. Most of the posts at eduhonesty are intended to convey a clear message, but I have to admit this article became a post because I am not sure what I think. My daughter and I share our ambivalence, although she leans more toward Dr. Mars approach than I do.

For years, I have been concerned about the lack of options for students whose talents may not lie in traditional academics. I am a huge fan of vocational/technical/career education, an area of education that lost ground under No Child Left Behind. I should note the issue above has not been fully captured in the opening paragraphs; supposedly, kids must pass the talent test to go on for further consideration.

Do we need another academic school? We have many academic charters and public schools. We have few schools dedicated to the arts. That said, where do these kids go if they do not have the talent to pursue a career in the arts — where few graduates will be able to make a comfortable living in today’s world — if they do not get adequate academic exposure? We should prepare America’s students to go to college if they make this choice later. After a decade of bartending while trying out for parts in shows, dance troupes, or orchestras, sometimes artists decide they are tired and want a regular paycheck.

But what about those kids who don’t hit academic targets, but nonetheless have talent and drive? Where are they to go? On the one hand, kids usually rise to meet our academic expectations — whether high or low. On the other hand, some kids will not be able to hit those higher academic targets. Should Dr. Mars deprive those kids their access to a program that might provide them with high school success?

Eduhonesty: I lean toward supporting the parents, students and teachers in this situation — provided we understand that those high schools that teach art, entrepreneurship, or engineering, for example, may or may not be preparing their students for a realistic future.

I suggest parents research these schools carefully. What happens to graduating students? How many succeed? How many become entrepreneurs? How many make it to college?

In this time of burgeoning charter choices, parents need to research their children’s schools. Charter schools and public schools with a focused mission may be excellent choices, but picking those schools requires care. Like picking that college major, the long-term consequences of school selection may follow a child for life.

Tip #15: Be Careful Picking Mentors and Helpers

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This tip’s meant for newbies, but people who have changed schools or administrators may find the tip useful as well.

From my last post:

*In practical terms, you genuinely should avoid airing all the laundry in front of the administration, but your coworkers should be mostly “safe,” especially if you ask for help and advice. Experienced teachers expect to help colleagues get started.

I can’t leave these two-sentences of advice dangling at the end of a post. Administrators are like bit players in a Star Wars movie. By temperment and character, some are greedy shopkeepers, some are surly bartenders, some are embittered former Jedi knights, some are Rebel fighters and some are Imperial Stormtroopers. You may not always know what you have, too. Those administrators can be tricky.

Especially be careful of new, young or desperate administrators.

Put any administrator in a potential turn-around school in the desperate category. Put any administrator whose job depends on improving test scores in the desperate category. Desperate administrators make desperate moves in order to hang onto their jobs. Getting rid of “substandard” teachers looks good to higher-ups in the district office — whether you have truly sub-standard teachers to fire or not.

The problem with new and young administrators can be a lack of understanding of “normal” school conditions. If Maribeth taught in a prosperous, middle-school district with great test scores, but took her first administrative teaching position in your urban school with its 39% drop-out rate, Maribeth may have no idea what she’s doing — but she may not realize that fact. If you come at her describing too many problems, she may decide you cannot manage a classroom — a classroom that she herself might be unable to manage. But she won’t necessarily realize that fact because historically her own classes always went well.

Admin may claim to want the best for you. They may act like your friend. They may even be your friend. You can’t trust that friendship, however.

If the administration decides to get rid of a few teachers to show that they are addressing the problem of lower test scores, you want to be invisible. Too many requests for help can translate into too much trouble managing a classroom. I watch a colleague lose her job in her second year, very unfairly in my view, in part because a group of middle-school girls had put her on the radar. I loved the principal responsible, but I still think my colleague lost her job because he needed a “sacrifice” as the state closed in on my district.

Eduhonesty: Get help from colleagues, not your administration. Watch out for colleagues who are too buddy-buddy with administration. Watch out for colleagues who share too much gossip in the teacher’s lounge.

Tip # 15.5: Ask for as much useful professional development as you can. The best help sometimes comes from outsiders, and requesting professional development always looks good. Share the best parts of that development with other colleagues who did not attend useful seminars with you.

Tip #15.6: If admin asks how you are doing, the answer is “Great!” A small question here might be indicated, especially if you are in the Dean’s office with a student, for example. You might tack on something like, “I do need to work on keeping Fatima and Sarah on task, though. I have already separated their desks and called home. What else would you do?”

Asking for a few pieces of administrative advice should help you to make a good impression, provided you make sure that administration understands that, overall, you are doing “Great!”

P.S. Obviously I am overgeneralizing here. The best administrators I ever knew were working in challenging environments. You may have nothing to worry about. I’d follow one man who worked in desperate times to Mars. He was a wonderful leader. But in this time when schools have been known to use the numbers in the Charlotte Danielson (or other) rubric to decide on teacher retention, letting administration know that you are struggling with small groups may lower your evaluation score and final average. I knew someone who was let go for getting a 2.7 when her district required a 2.73. These are crazy times. I’d say, better to be safe than sorry until you have been in your position and worked under your new principal for long enough to know the lay of the land.

Tip #14.7: If You Do Not Speak Spanish, Borrow a Colleague or Secretary

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If you have no English-language learners in your classrooms, you can skip this post.

I have had colleagues ask me to make Spanish-language phone calls and I do not hesitate to help. I know sometimes calls get dropped because busy colleagues cannot make themselves understood and are unwilling to impose on others. New teachers may be afraid to look bad. Older teachers may simply wish to respect their colleagues minimal and often steadily decreasing planning time. As meetings and data work suck up that planning time, the time becomes more precious and Mike may not want to impose on my remaining twenty minutes of “free” time.

But if Lupita is skipping class, that phone call home must be made. If no one at home speaks English well enough to converse over the phone, you need help. New teachers, please don’t worry about airing your laundry in public * … in front of colleagues. We have all been there. We know how tough that first year can be. If Miguel cursed at you and called you stupid, his parents should be told immediately. Little transgressions become bigger transgressions when they are not addressed. Miguel also needs to know you care. Showing an interest in him may make your whole year much easier.

So ask me to translate. Ask the school secretary. Ask any teacher, counselor, social worker or clerical staff member who speaks Spanish or another language you require. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I’ll observe that the most grateful parents I have ever called tend to be those new arrivals to the U.S. who have not yet mastered English. These parents often feel excluded and lost as they navigate officialdom around them; they love to be included as vital elements in their children’s educations. They crave the chance to know what is happening outside their homes.

P.S. If you wanted to buy your “translators” a small Starbuck’s gift card, bunch of flowers, a latte or some token of gratitude at the end of the year, that effort would be appreciated, especially if a colleague donates hours of time to help you with your classes.

*In practical terms, you genuinely should avoid airing all the laundry in front of the administration, but your coworkers should be mostly “safe,” especially if you ask for help and advice. Experienced teachers expect to help colleagues get started. Oops, I believe I just stumbled into a useful new post.

 

Tip #14: Call Home Anyway

Yes, that last post has a true Blog of Gloom and Doom feel. If I call home I may have to call child services? I may be attacked? Oh, no!

Hi, newbies. These tips continue veering to the practical, but I feel I should add some perspective to the previous post. Most calls home are harmless and many are beneficial. Parents have helped me hold up the ship and rescue their kids for years. Parents are usually grateful to know what their child is doing in the classroom. They want to know Arianna has fallen behind in her homework. They want to know Arianna skipped class and disappeared yesterday afternoon for two hours. Sometimes they desperately want to know.

Parents are mostly grateful for help and information. They can often get the homework done and see that Arianna comes to class. So, please, plan to call parents and guardians when you have a problem unless those red flags referred to in my last post crop up in some fashion.*

Eduhonesty: Calls to parents and guardians at home can help enormously when you are trying to manage your classroom. I wholeheartedly recommend calling regularly.

Tip # 14.5: Keep a call log. Update that log while you are calling or immediately afterward. (I have had a bad habit of planning to do this later and I am sure some calls never made the log.) Write down phone numbers to simplify future calls. You will find some numbers are used often. You may have them memorized before Thanksgiving break.

*If you sense possible trouble or conflict from making a call, consider delegating that call to a social worker, counselor or colleague who has a better rapport with your student’s parents. While sometimes you may be the only person for the call, depending on the nature of that call, there’s no disgrace in asking others for their expertise.

Tip #13: Not all phone calls are winners

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Education classes and school administrators encourage phone calls home. Theory favors parental involvement as an element in educational success. Administrators want that open channel between parents and teachers.

That said, this advice comes from years of calling home. I’ve made a few phone calls I regretted. I’ve made more than a few useless calls, and one or two that bit me back. I still believe in calling, but I am more careful about those calls now.

Are you a new teacher? If so, depending on your background, I may have a warning for you. Those books and articles about not spanking kids? Those books and articles are read by readers. Not all your students’ parents will be readers. In some cultures, spanking remains commonplace. When you decide to make that phone call home, the person on the other end of the line may have a very different value system than your own. Keep in mind that you may precipitate a level of punishment you would not use personally. I’ve had parents give me verbal permission to spank their kid. When I told them I could not, they immediately promised to spank the kid for me if I called.

And when a kid seems off-the-charts messed up, I always try to keep in mind that his or her parents may be part of the problem. I am not saying that parents are necessarily the reason for challenging classroom behaviors. I taught a delusional child a few years ago with loving parents who I’d guess had little or nothing to do with the voices in his head. Still, I am not going to call that home without knowing more about my student’s background. Angry, bullying kids often come from angry, bullying homes.

Years ago, a seventh grade boy with a reputation for bullying came into my classroom early. I was tired and I’d frankly made a mess of my eye make-up putting it on in the dark*. He looked at me sympathetically: “Did your husband hit you, Ms. Q?” he asked casually, as if this were a regrettable but common occurrence.

Tip #13: If a kid breaks into tears and says, “Please! Don’t call home! They’ll beat me!”  I recommend listening. That’s a call I’d pass on to the social worker, after I discussed the comment with the social worker. That’s also a kid to watch. Teachers are mandated reporters and you may find yourself needing to call child services at some point.

In general, I recommend waiting on calls until you are no longer feeling upset or frustrated with your student. Be sure to add a few good points about the student as part of any conversation. Those conversations should be versions of, “He’s very enthusiastic and energetic, but that energy is making it hard for him to stay in his seat.”

Eduhonesty: Some of those calls will be no-win scenarios, too. Try not to let those calls get you down. At some point, you will call “Felipe’s” house about his behavior and his mom will go straight to the attack, asserting that if you were a better teacher then Felipe would be a better student. If you knew how to manage a classroom, Felipe would never have squirted hand sanitizer on Olivia’s back. Some parents fight for their kids with a complete disregard for the facts. I suspect nearly every teacher who calls home has heard a version of, “I can’t believe that. You must be wrong. He never does that at home.”

*That might have been the last time I put on make-up while sitting at stoplights in the dark. That year, I had to leave for work at 5:00 AM because of my commute.

Tip #12: Be the Food Police

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This year’s tips have taken a turn for the practical. Last year’s tips — I recommend new teachers visit last August and September in particular — were targeted mostly to new teachers and revolved around getting started in teaching. But as I try to write a book out here and think about my experiences, I am beginning to mix a more eclectic flavor into the 2016 offerings.

Readers, how do you like your green beans? I’ll bet no one out there answered, “Cooked for hours until they are mushy and kind of gray-green, preferably without salt, butter or seasoning.” Yet that’s what many schools are feeding their students. The new food guidelines came in and the butter, salt and cheese sauce went away in many places. The chips vanished. The vending machines were turned off until after school hours. I have vented about these lunches before, with their six ounces (tops) of baked chicken, unseasoned rice and mushy vegetables. Student then get to pick small carrot bags or apples to add to their trays.

Some schools are still serving tasty lunches. I learned that while subbing last year. A district with money can work within the guidelines and come up with tasty sandwiches. For that matter, some schools are still serving pizza and ice cream. Maybe they don’t need federal funds. I never asked.

But getting circuitously back to my tip: I have watched mountains of food thrown away. I have commiserated with the custodial staff as they cleaned up around the overflowing garbage cans. In a previous post, I believe I even recommended that schools seek out pig farmers to see if they might want feed donations.

Here is what I want to recommend to teachers: If Joaquin or Shaniqua are throwing away their lunch every day, call home. A free/reduced price lunch is no lunch if the kid never eats that lunch. Talk to mom, dad or whoever gets the kids off in the morning. Suggest sending a bag lunch to school in this situation. A cheese sandwich with a boxed apple juice will be better than no lunch at all. Heck, a butter sandwich with a Dr. Pepper will be better.

Too often today, kids are eating no or almost no lunch at all. Their trays get dumped after a lunch period spent socializing and cadging chips off some friend who brought food from home. These hungry kids predictably become tired, listless and cranky.

If your school serves those green beans, check with your students about their lunch habits. Do they eat? If they don’t, please step into the gap and help find food for them.

P.S. Middle school and high school teachers may never spend time in their school cafeterias. If you don’t visit the cafeteria, you might create a survey on lunch habits instead. I know what I am suggesting adds to a probably already huge workload, but the improvement in the behavior of your sixth, seventh, eighth etc. period classes should make those phone calls and rewards worth the time. By 2:30, hungry and cranky can turn into ravenous and raging. Full moon or no, the werewolves start coming out.