Monday, July 25, 2016

Maybe humor is in the eye of the beholder, or it's stuck in the eye.

Again, it's time to share some of the wonderful writing that my students have churned out over summer school.  I'm sure that if I was using some illegal substances while reading these that my mind would expand, but right now it's slamming shut like an angry clam, leaving me with a headache.  

I've now switched from Coke Zero to Diet Mountain Dew.  I don't think it's helped.

Everyone uses humor in different ways, wether it be for dealing with things or the class clown.

Humor is a way of expressing how you feel, creativeness, playfulness, and it comes naturally.

Sometimes humor can make people feel better about serious stuff, such as bullying.

Jokes can help in life with everything such as deppresion, self harm, family problems and even more!

Humor is it needed in life threatening situations?

Secondly humor can lead to death situations.  One common mistake can ruin investigations.

Humor can be for laughter or for bulling.

Both points of views can have very good opinions.

Have you ever been hanging from a cliff, ready to die but saying jokes to lighten the mood a bit?

For the last one, I can honestly say no, I haven't, but that depends on your definition of a cliff. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Who doesn't love games?

I found an old post draft I'd written when working for Crappy ISD.  Ah, memories!

Professional development day is a day where we learn to act professional, despite all the idiocy, gimmicks, demands, crap and unrealistic expectations that are thrown at us. 

I finally realized this today.  It’s not so important that we LEARN anything, although we do have lots of “gimmicks” that are pulled out of the “teacher toolbox” to show us how we are supposed to “effectively” get the lesson materials across.  We deployed many “strategies” to help us “unpack the standards,” in order for us to finally capture the Holy Grail of teaching, the “a-ha moment.” 

You’ll never see teachers as seethingly angry as they are when someone is asking them to “make a foldable,” or telling them to “think-pair-share.”  We are adults (well, most of us), and to have a facilitator condescend to us in that way feels, you know, condescending.  I make mental notes to look for the session leader afterwards in the parking lot so I can run him or her over with my car, or at least slash his or her tires.  Hopefully this person will deploy some problem solving strategies to deal with me, because then I’d REALLY be learning, and the lesson would be unforgettable.

Today, at 2:20, we found that our lesson plan format has to radically change, as of tomorrow.  Tomorrow our fearless district leaders will be walking the halls of our rapidly sinking ship of a school to see if we are now using the “gradual release” model of teaching.  I am – by shoving kids gradually out into the hallways when their behavior gets on my nerves.  I like to send them out in pairs so they can turn and talk on their way to the office. 

It’s baffling why the district thinks that in a few short hours, everything is going to change to a new style, particularly after they’ve spent the past eighteen weeks hammering on another ineffective lesson plan style.  Sudden change is always good, right?  Especially for kids, who thrive on routine and trust, right?  Maybe this is a new way to help us “differentiate” our instruction.  I just know that it’s not a good thing when the unqualified administrator who’s giving you this news also seems unhappy about it.  Heck, she’s usually happy about any way to stick it to those of us in the trenches.  

Her advice?  “I’m teaching you how to play the game.”

I think we already know how it’s played, but we’re the ones losing.  What we really need is a way to make the game more enjoyable, maybe with the “integration of technology” or some “scaffolding.”  That way we can demonstrate some “higher-order thinking skills” and hopefully gain some knowledge that helps, what with all our “diverse learning styles.”

See you in the parking lot. That’s my part of the game. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means, not to me, but what it means

So, I was reading an article today about a national shortage of teachers.  As I scanned the headline, “Where have all the teachers gone?”  I pretty much predicted how the article would go.

First, it would talk about how the ranks of certified teachers have thinned by some significant percentage.  Then the article would highlight two or three states with the biggest shortages.  It would hit on one of three points, or all three as the cause: low pay, lack of training, or classroom overcrowding.  Then they’d talk to an “expert” who would mention how he and his particular group were working to remedy one of those problems.

This one focused on training with a capital T.  Enrollment is down in teacher preparation programs, and this particular expert said that America needed to provide more training to teachers so that they could be more effective in the classroom.  This assertion made me laugh, not loudly so that people would look at me weirdly in the supermarket line, but with a short, bitter “ha” that doesn’t have an exclamation mark.

You readers know how I feel about training.  I’d be for it if I ever had decent training.  My certification program was pretty good, in that it was incredibly practical.  But what I don’t get is why districts and “experts” and people in charge keep coming back to “inadequate training” as the reason teachers don’t stay.  It’s not like we’re all getting fired because we don’t know how to unlock our classroom doors or input grades – or maybe we are.  I don’t know what goes on in all districts.

But is it really training?  If enrollment is down in teacher prep programs, then the problem is that people DON’T WANT TO TEACH.  So I don’t see how more or even better training is going to fix that. If too many teachers are leaving the profession, then forcing more training on them, which IS currently happening, is not what they need to make them stay. 

Why aren’t teachers staying in the classroom?  Why don’t we ask them?

What I find fascinating is the fact that they never talk to any teachers in the article.  Teachers have a lot to say, and yet there’s never a quote from a single classroom teacher.  Do the reporters not know any?  Or do they assume teachers can’t give good quotes since they’ll be too busy trying to correct the reporter’s grammar?  Thousands of teachers are working all over America, and a journalist can’t find a single one to weigh in on what’s happening in education?   

So, to shorten any future articles you read here’s why people are leaving in a nutshell: No one respects us – no one.  

Look, if a reporter respected teachers, he or she would talk to one.  If an administrator respected his or her teachers, he or she would stop putting out directives that go against common sense and would treat staff members like intelligent adults.  If district officials and lawmakers respected teachers, they’d stop wasting their time with laws that benefit no one, testing that eats up class time and training that encompasses the latest ideological fad.

If you were continually treated like the village idiot, wouldn’t you leave the village?  And seriously, just be glad the teachers are leaving, not burning down the village, which they certainly could.
I’ve worked in corporate America, in small businesses, in media, in retail and even in real estate.  I can honestly say that nowhere else have I ever seen employees talked down to and demeaned the way teachers are by their own administrators, district officials or parents.  Nor have I ever seen the plethora of bad ideas thrown at employees the way they get thrown at teachers, with the expectation that it’ll be implemented immediately, and then later abandoned just as quickly as soon as higher ups get tired of it.  Such bad ideas include extra paperwork to document every parent contact, every assignment a student turned in, and every interaction a teacher had with a student, in the guise of making that teacher “more effective.”  Because we all know that more paperwork equals a better employee, right?

I’ve never seen a profession more stupidly gung-ho about applying technological solutions to pretty much every problem, even (and especially) if the chance of solving the problems that way is slim, or the resources to utilize the technology are lacking.

So hey, reporter, explain to me why an “expert” who hasn’t been in a classroom in years or ever is giving his or her two cents?  Because you know what that opinion is worth?

Less than – okay, you saw that coming. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG - Having a time out

So, I didn't write for a couple of weeks because I left on a trip, a road trip, to be exact.  And you know what I found out?  I can't stand being in the car for hours on end.  Even though it's IWSG day, that isn't what I'm insecure about.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time once I wasn't in the car.  But I worried quite a bit about getting behind on posting.  Friends of mine assured me that it was fine to take time off.  However, it didn't feel so much like "time off" as much as a "time out."

I think I'm taking a "time out" because it's hard for me to try to keep being funny.  I like my job and I like the kids I work with, but sometimes the stress of trying so hard to help them wears on me.  It's difficult to continue to find the humor in it all without resorting to constant sarcasm and snarkiness.  I worry that I'll become one of those teachers who become increasingly bitter about the inanities of our profession, and it will come out in my writing.

Okay, I did have one funny thing happen the other day.  I was working with a student, tutoring him to help him with his summer reading, actually, when I tried to come up with an analogy to explain his reading assignment.

"So Connor, this book is a lot like - um, well... have you ever seen The Matrix?"

Connor immediately looked thoughtful.  "Yeah, The Matrix."  I nodded, hoping he got my point about a false dystopian world.  Then he said, "Yeah, you know, that's a movie that really makes you think, you know, Ms. Marlowe?"

Uh, no.