31 August 2006

Does Size Matter?

Education is a trendy sort of profession. Just as fashion hemlines rise and fall, there is an ebb and flow to the latest style for schools and classrooms. Teachers who stay in the profession for awhile get to see the return to favour of various strategies---only repackaged and renamed for a younger audience. The problem with being trendy is that schools never try anything long enough to really get a good handle on whether or not it works. It's automatically assumed that results should be visible within a year or two.

The "small high school" (or "school within a school") idea is one which reminds me of the open concept ideas of the 1970's. Bill Gates' Foundation has been a strong supporter in recent years of the small high school. That concept is now experiencing a backlash. Students may not buy into the concept because although they have a focused track, it also can limit the kinds of classes they can take. Some parents aren't sure that 14-year olds are ready to commit to a career track. Business and community members might not understand the goals and be ready to support a dramatic shift in the way schools educate youngsters. To make a radical change without getting all of stakeholders on board is a swift and certain path to failure.

The intent with the small school idea is to group kids and teachers with similar interests and strengths into a multi-year community. It is a way to take a high school with thousands of students and provide a way for kids and staff to better connect. Fewer students for teachers to manage means more opportunity to deepen classroom relationships and help kids learn to better communicate. There's nothing wrong with this desire---it's quite admirable to want to build a sense of purpose and unity. I'm just not sure that the small school package is the best way to achieve this.

The Gates' Foundation seems a bit quick on the trigger in terms of pulling their support if gains in student achievement aren't forthcoming or if there is even a whiff of controversy within the community. They seem to fall prey to the trendy thinking too often seen in education, although I admit that if I had provided several hundred thousand dollars to a school district that I'd like to see something positive in return...and there's no sense in throwing good money after bad. But if size does matter when it comes to the number of students in a school...and the Gates' Foundation believes this...then I'd hope that find ways to support the implementation over time. Resources don't have to be just financial.

My opinion is that the size of the school doesn't matter. What matters in the education of teens is the connection among all members of the community: parents, business owners, teachers, students, retirees, and so on. Developing and building those relationships provides everyone a stake in the educational process and models for students what the expectations are and how things can work. Everyone has to be responsible and accountable. If you live in a small town, it's a given that everyone knows everyone else's business (like it or not). The small school concept might hope to reap these benefits within a larger framework, but they will be unable to as long as they exist as islands in the community. It's about the size (number) of connections---not the size of classes.

30 August 2006

Dodging Bullets

The Curriculum Optional Days are over for another year. Interestingly enough, very few teachers chose to "opt out." I can't think of a single secondary science teacher that I didn't see yesterday, and we had better than 90% attendance for the elementary day this morning.

I can't say that there weren't glitches. The software for the grades 6 - 9 trainings wasn't installed properly by the techs and there were some related issues. But in each case, the trainer was able to roll with the punches and offer up something valuable.

The only official trainer we were able to get for elementary was fantastic. Here, too, there were frustrations in that we discovered this morning that his company sent one wrong set of manuals. But he still got teachers very excited about the new curriculum.

High school science teachers stayed engaged all day yesterday and gave good feedback. One from the school that is most resistant to district meetings said it was the most valuable day he's spent in the last few years. There were some amazing conversations in the afternoon when they were in "jobs alike" teams. A physics teacher who hassled me mercilessly last year led a group through a discussion of structuring inquiry and expository writing. Where the heck did that come from? The junior high life science and high school biology teachers chose to meet together and spent time talking about coordinating their labs. I don't feel like the entire day was a success, but the afternoon went wonderfully. I would really like for teachers to be able to talk more about student learning...and they're also not willing to seriously consider achievement gap issues. I have to keep trying.

The elementary day could have blown up in our faces. Every grade level has new science curriculum---which most teachers didn't know about when they left for summer. I had seven different grade levels to set up for this morning (including helping the one publisher rep we could get) and two grades to present. Things were missing (like the fifth grade kit), experiments didn't quite work (Who knew the fabric pieces had sizing and so none of them would soak up water?), and hardly anybody likes change. But there were lots of smiles today and a ton of positive feedback. People are pleasantly excited. Principals are, too.

I feel as though I have run a marathon over the last two days. I didn't come in first, but I did finish with a respectable time. I am looking forward to being able to now focus on the year ahead---an entirely different sort of gauntlet. Maybe I have the right kevlar for it.

28 August 2006

Intents and Purposes

The rah-rah back to school speaker this morning was not the most dynamic person, but had many important thoughts to share. I was grateful for her words because they are a perfect lead-in to the major topic of my morning session with high school science teachers tomorrow morning: equity.
  • Why do students of all backgrounds take advanced courses in junior high...but not in high school? How come mainly white or asian males are found in the most rigorous of science courses at tenth grade?
  • If we say that we have high expectations for all students, why are children of poverty at our high schools nowhere to be found in upper level courses?
  • Since we are ostensibly working toward college readiness for every student, why are we seeing such a dramatic dropoff in the number of kids taking the SAT?
I'm guessing that these conversations aren't going to be pretty. I will need to keep telling teachers that none of these things implies that they are treating any of these subgroups differently...but that really isn't the point. The point is that every kid who walks through our doors has a unique background that we have to connect with. And we're not getting the job done right now.

It will be all too easy to let teachers slip into the blame game. It's true, there are lots of outside forces at work. We don't have any control over what happens outside of our classrooms. But again, that's not the point. The point is, what are teachers prepared to do with the time and resources that they do manage?

For all intents and purposes, we're in the business of educating every child, every day. Maybe tomorrow we can take a step toward really walking that talk.

27 August 2006

News from the Front

Did you see the conclusions drawn by Thomas Dee that "having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student's academic progress." I'm not sure how many grains of salt to ingest with this study based upon one massive data collection in 1988. I don't think it's enough (and to be fair, neither does Dr. Dee), and yet it does raise an interesting question or two. Could the current and ever-growing achievement gap between the sexes be due in part to the disparity between the numbers of male and female educators?

Perhaps you saw that a high school principal in Indiana suspended more than 10% of the students on their first day of school for wearing inappropriate clothing or cell phone use. You gotta like someone willing to take a stand like this (and with school board support, to boot). I wonder how many parents complained because they spent good money on those clothes and now their kids are going to have to wear things that aren't revealing and/or pants that stay up around the waist.

What about providing tutoring for students in need under the provisions of NCLB? Schools might have an obligation---and shouldn't stand in the way as described in a couple of cases in this article. But shouldn't the Dep't. of Ed. be obligated to provide some research demonstrating that tutoring makes a difference?

My personal favourite from today is a story out of NM, where a school was shut down because someone mistook a giant burrito as a weapon. Don't they know those things are only explosive after they've been consumed?

26 August 2006

Setting the Table

It's that time of year---the time when teachers collectively moan about all of the back-to-school meetings that take up the precious time and headspace they have before the kids arrive for the year. Common complaints include not being treated as professionals (How many cutesy icebreakers does one have to endure?), useless information (Who cares about the changes to the bus schedule as long as the kids still get here?), and conversations that go nowhere (Do we have to spend 30 minutes talking about the tardy policy...again?).

Meetings are often poorly executed, too. I can't remember all of the times I sat there marvelling that these were the only days all year that the principals had to plan and deliver, and yet they were terrible. What kind of modelling was that?

This is my fourth year serving as a Curriculum Specialist, which means that parts of these days are my responsibility, too. I am spending my weekend putting the finishing touches on the table I'm setting...for 300 people. I'm feeling pretty good at this point about the elementary day, which is when I'll have seven different presentations running simulataneously (yes, I have help). There are still plenty of reasons why things could go sideways. The curriculum will be brand new for teachers and we only get two hours to present it. The day is optional, which means that we'll likely have ~70% attendance.

The day for secondary science is starting to shape up, but I still have a long way to go. These teachers are fussy eaters, so making the table appealing is never simple. My 7 - 9 group has more training on their new curriculum and should be pretty happy and busy. The 10 - 12 group still prefers to think of themselves as independent contractors---there's not a lot of cohesiveness to draw upon.

My goals on these days are to avoid the things teachers hate the most about professional development days. So, there's nothing cute, we're packing in as many useful and directly applicable to the classroom pieces as we can, and focused agendas to keep conversations moving along. I'm hoping for good appetites on these days---a hunger for things which will improve student learning and make life in the classroom simpler. I'll do what I can to salt the oats.

25 August 2006

Student Mindset: the 2010 Version

Every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin releases a "student mindset" list regarding their incoming freshman class. The list is designed for staff in order to help them realize some things about the generation entered their hallowed halls.

This year's list is about the class of 2010. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  • There has always been only one Germany.
  • They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
  • "Google" has always been a verb.
  • Phantom of the Opera has always been on Broadway.
  • Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby. (ed note: Get that piano some paper training!)
  • They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
  • Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
  • Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
  • Richard M. Daley has always been the Mayor of Chicago.
Most of these (and the others on the list) make me feel old(er). I keep asking myself, "Has it really been 18 years?"

Our kindergartners are the Class of 2018. Makes you wonder what will be on the list by that time.

24 August 2006

Unhip Data

I've been staring at the district science data for awhile this afternoon. This is the fourth year. By now I'd hoped to see some sort of trend, even if it was just holding steady. But it's just not there. The Inquiry strand at Grade 10, for example, is 40.1, 42.1, 40.3, 42.1 since 2003. When you look at the individual school data, it's even fuzzier: so not trendy.

I can't help but do some in-depth pondering of the data from the school I taught at over the last 10 years. Longtime fans of this blog know I've had a major tug-of-war this year about what the targets should be for kids. My view is that they should be what the state tells us are our foci; many at the school believe that they should get to decide what to teach. The data this year show that only 25.1% of the students met the standard in the content area of science---by far the lowest score in the district. Will teachers be ready to help kids learn what they need to know this year...finally? Maybe the data will make a difference. Meanwhile, this same school had the greatest growth of anyone in the area of Inquiry: up 11 points to 47%. Scores in the other process strand are also up a bit. So, teachers have kids who are able to skillfully think about how to do science...it's just not meaningully tied to content.

Really, the ups and downs of the data and general lack of trends just means that not a lot is changing (especially at the high school level) in terms of making high quality instruction a priority for all students. It's very frustrating. It's looking like the junior highs might be on the right path, but high school teachers are going to have take more responsibility for their part in things. Should be quite the challenge for me this year to get that point across.

23 August 2006

"U No" What to Do

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In my early days in this district, there was a principal who loved to use "U-No" bars as a way to recognize teachers for something positive that had occurred (as in "You Know What to Do!").

Now, it's your turn. Head on over to this week's Carnival of Education, once again ably and delightfully hosted by the Education Wonks.

Come on---U-No what to do!

22 August 2006

Year 16...The Saga Continues

Since I'm not assigned to a classroom this year, it's hard for me to really determine when the school year begins for me. Yes, I've already been meeting and working with other teachers---but it's that first young face at the classroom door that makes it all real.

We met as a Curriculum department today. This will be my fifth school year with an association with that department and this is the very first time that we have met as a group. The previous Boss Lady just didn't see a need for meeting. Boss Lady 2.0 does because each of us has indicated to her during our individual conferences that we want this. There are some serious communication issues that have developed over the last few years, and that ends up spilling over onto principals and teachers. That really can't happen.

Meanwhile, the budget shortfall continues to grow and it's a darker picture for the district in the coming year. I first heard it would be a one million dollar shortfall...then $3M...and now it's $5M. The district will likely close two elementaries, but that will only result in a one million dollar savings. Other cuts will happen in co-curricular (again, not big savings, even with "pay for play") and every other department...including our own. I don't know if I feel as threated by this as others should. The seven literacy coaches were allowed to spend over $40K in the last year on professional development (books, conferences). Meanwhile, they're sole existence is predicated upon a focus in Writing---something not required by NCLB and an area with higher scores than math and science. They have access to a full time sub pool. Our STAR program pays for one full-time cert, four full-time subs (for teacher release time), and supplies. Both of these programs have a wonderful impact, but we could move along without them.

There will be lots of ups and downs this year. It's already a busy one, as I'm planning on the introduction of new curriculum at 10 different grade levels. This business is all about change and growth, so I'll hang on for the rollercoaster ride for the 16th time.

21 August 2006


Today was the big "induction" for certificated staff who are new to the profession this year. This was not an easy day to plan. I had one regular education teacher (secondary math), two VocEd teachers, two secondary self-contained SPED teachers, one k-3 autism teacher, and one elementary level school psych/counselor. Six of them are coming to the profession after other life experiences. Talk about a need to differentiate instruction. This was the biggest challenge I've had in a very long time.

My theme in planning the morning was "generic but meaningful." Everyone needed to think about how to build a learner-centered environment. They would all have to be able to engage with parents in different ways. And each teacher will have a mountain of paperwork, e-mail, and calls to manage. We talked about some ways to make these things happen and resources to support their work. Discussions were good and things appear to be starting off on the right foot.

The afternoon session was at two different sites. The four teachers who will be working with SPED went to meet with the directors of Special Services in order to learn more about how the district deals with IEPs and related tasks. The rest of us headed to their school and set up their classrooms, got keys and class lists, talked with their mentors, and attempted to calm nerves and move forward.

All of these teachers are going to have a tough row to hoe, in addition to being newbies at teaching. None of them has a straightforward assignment. Even the one regular ed teacher has two sections of "math lab," which are brand new---and there is no curriculum or syllabus to hand her. I'll be there to support all of them however I can, although this role is new for me this year. We'll just have to struggle on the best we can.

I told them that my best suggestion for the first day was to wear professional, but comfy clothes so that they're not scratching and adjusting all day...and to put on plenty of deodorant in the morning. If you have some ideas I should pass along to our new teachers, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

19 August 2006

Financing the Future

About this time 19 years ago, I was trundled off to college. My family hadn't done a lot of financial planning for this event and I didn't have much in the way of scholarships to the university I chose. We did end up with some college loans (I believe we topped out at $10K). I definitely remember the "sticker shock" of going shopping for books each semester. How could a few textbooks eat up over $100?

Obviously times change and costs rise. According to a recent article in USA Today, the cost of books each semester is now nearly $1000. It has reached a point where many students either find ways to share books or go completely without. Continued increases in tuition and other fees means an ever larger need for student loans and debt after graduation. Will students who need to pay back $20K in loans choose a lower-paying job, even if they are interested in a public-service area (or teaching)?

The author of the article wonders what impacts all of this will have on the future of America. As college becomes more difficult to afford, a much slimmer slice of the student population will continue their education. Meanwhile, India and China are pouring money into their higher ed programs. Will we have to continue to either outsource or import people in order to work in many industries?

What I'm left thinking about after reading the article is one of the stated purposes behind the standards-based education movement: to prepare every student to be college ready. Not every kid continues their education after high school, but the idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity in terms of their background. I have seen far too many kids with college dreams stopped because of financial concerns---even though they had the educational tools to be successful. Some of these were sure they'd get scholarships. They didn't. Maybe educating students and parents about the realities of college costs at a much earlier time in the educational timeline would be prudent. If we are saying that every child will be college ready based on their trip through the public education system, then we need to have a stronger partnership with families in order to make higher education a reality for the students who want it.

18 August 2006


If you're a teacher in this district, you still have one more blissful week before you have to report for duty. If you're a kid, you have two more weeks. If you work in Curriculum and Instruction, summer is not a word you'll use again until late June 2007.

Today was a good way to ease back into things as 14 of us journeyed to Seattle to attend a workshop on science notebooks. There was a strong sense of positive outlook on things and using the information as part of the program that we're trying to build.

According to this year's science WASL scores, we're continuing to make a bit of progress at the elementary and junior high levels...but high school dipped again. This doesn't surprise me. Many kids didn't take the test seriously. They knew they had to pass Reading, Writing, and Math to graduate. It will be two more years before Science is added to that hallowed pantheon. What is disturbing is the normal bell curve Science continues to have in terms of the distribution of scores. Every other subject for every grade has a delightfully abnormal curve: it favours the upper end of the scale. It shows that teachers in those grades and areas are aligning their curriculum, instruction, and assessment: they understand what students are expected to do, support their learning, and can accurately measure student progress. High school science continues to be quite the stubborn mule, as I've mentioned many times in this blog. Sigh. I know they care deeply about their subject matter...and most of them like kids and their jobs. But the bottom line is that they have a much greater interest in their teaching than they do in student learning.

This evening (yes, on a Friday night), I was handed the task of providing a School Improvement Plan for Science for the elementaries (all 14) by Wednesday. The plan needs to have goals, timelines, responsibility assignments, formative measures, costs, resources, and monthly to-do lists for principals. On one hand, I'm glad that science will be given the same priority as math, reading, and writing---and on the other, this is a lot of work...and I still have the all-day inservice for new-to-the-profession teachers to plan for Monday.

Did I mention that one of our new science curricula sources couldn't find a trainer for the 30th? Or that I still haven't figured out what to do with the teachers of science electives on the 29th?

Despite the sense of panic and complete buzzkill of what is hanging over me, there is also this nice headspace where planning for the start of the school year used to be. If I can just find a way to make better use of it, I think things could get off to a great start...or at least continue along the path started today.

Welcome back!

17 August 2006

Tanned, Rested, and Ready...Sorta

Okay, so I'm really a bit sunburned, pleasantly exhausted, and scrambling to plan meetings for next week...but overall, I had a lovely holiday. My Sweetie came out to spend the week with me and we explored a variety of new places. (His photos are below.) My nose will be firmly pressed to the grindstone again beginning early tomorrow. I'm sure that I'll be daydreaming about some of our favourite new places.

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09 August 2006


There's still another day of WASL testing, but Boss Lady 2.0 has given me a reprieve so that my small window of holiday can be opened wider. The car is roadworthy...I've got my gear together...and the siren song of new places is whispering in my ear and the charm of some time without a thought of school is a lovely vision on the near horizon.

So, for the next week or so, you're going to have to fend for yourselves (you, too, Bonnetts). There's some fine reading over there on the Blogroll, including a new fave: The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society. Have a look at the "Longest Running Scientific Experiments" or click one of the archive posts on the sidebar.

I'll be back soon. For now, I'm...gone.

08 August 2006

Playing the Odds and Evens

We expected 104 students for the math WASL retake this morning, and like yesterday, we tested far less: 89 came for the morning session...and 88 returned after lunch to finish the assessment.

The two teachers who have been working with students since the end of June in order to prepare kids for the retake tested their own students. The other 50-51 occupied space in the library. Interestingly enough, the library students were done far ahead of the others. The students who have been preparing all summer have been well-trained in thorough thinking and taking their time with problems. They have been working through five hours of math per day for 20 days. They were ready to sit and make the test their bitch after spending their summer in school. My guess is that there will be a significant difference in their scores---not just vs. their original results, but against the kids who just came and retested. I think the odds are stacked greatly in favour of those who made the effort to prepare.

07 August 2006

WASL Problem

Imagine a district where approximately 120 students are eligible to retake the Reading portion of the state test. All students must take and pass the exam in order to graduate (or at least take the test twice before seeking an alternative pathway). Slightly less than 30% of the eligible students register for the retake. Of those, only two-thirds actually show up to take the test. How many students came to the retake this morning?


I figured that we'd have a couple of no-shows, but 13? It did make for a much simpler day, but it did make us scratch our heads a bit as to why so many students didn't make it to the test. We had been a bit worried about finding enough space for the 100+ scheduled for the math portion tomorrow, but after today, I don't think we'll have any problem. Even more mystifying were the students who attended the Reading Summer Seminar all last month and didn't come to retake the test. Why would you spend so many hours in a prep class and then not bother to come for the big event?

I will say that the kids who did show up today were focused and diligent in their efforts. I really hope all of them were able to pass this time around. Math, in all its glory, starts bright and early at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Maybe a few more students will be able to get out of bed for it.

06 August 2006

Two Down...Five to Go

I finished up the work for my second class toward my EdD today. :)

I liked this course a lot more than the first one. The reading was more thought provoking and the prompts for discussion interesting. The expectations for the writing assignments were much clearer and therefore easier to tackle.

I now have a short break before the third course begins. My WASL duties end on Wednesday and I will be leaving town for awhile that afternoon. (Hey, Hedgetoad...I'm headed your direction.) I am looking forward to having a week or so to just enjoy the summer and recharge a bit before my regular duties resume on the 18th. The next big thing is just around the corner.

05 August 2006

Busting Out

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I attended high school in a small school (59 people in my graduating class) in west Texas in the 1980's. Dress code for students meant no one could have untucked shirts; boys could not wear jewelry; and if any boy had hair longer than collar length, the principal came with a pair of scissors to the classroom and cut it then and there. There were more rules, few of which ever caused a fuss---and even then it was only with students who had recently moved into the area. There was also a dress code for teachers, although most of the items (such as no bare legs and no sleeveless tops) applied only to women.

I started my career in a junior high which also had a specific dress code. It was not quite as restrictive as the one I grew up with, but it helped a lot to have things in print. If you could let kids know you were paying attention to the small things, they often didn't test the boundaries of more important rules. At this point, the time was the early 1990's and saggy pants were all the rage with boys. Between this fashion statement and young ladies excited to show off their newly developed assets, we found the need to create a "No Cleavage" rule. We did have to explain this rule in more detail when we became a grades 6 - 8 school. There might not have been many opportunities for "top" cleavage displays, but plenty of undercleavage was still en vogue.

The district where I work now has nearly no dress code for students. It was a real shock to come here and discover that cleavage in all of its flavours wasn't banned from the classrooms. A few years ago, I begged the valedictorian at my school to buy a belt before college. Teachers had nicknamed her the "Queen of Crack." Working in a cooler climate means that the busty sort of cleavage isn't a problem much of the year...but make no mistake, there are plenty of sweet young things out there who are quite happy to pull out their spaghetti strap tops at the hint of sunshine. I fortunately haven't heard any stories similar to Coach Brown's of a parent claiming that their kid had a hot little body and should flaunt it. My guess is that it's only a matter of time.

I hadn't thought much about the "No Cleavage" rule for awhile---and then yesterday, CBS News posted this story about the controversy surrounding a similar rule that has been instituted in Arlington, Texas. Girls are now required to keep their girls covered during school hours. It appears that not everyone is in agreement with this new rule, although I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps there is a freedom of expression issue, but the fact is, most people don't get to wear whatever they want everywhere they want. Is it so much to ask that students and teachers don't have to see body parts they don't want or need to see during the few hours school is in session? Or is that too much of a Victorian expectation?

I doubt that we'll ever have a cleavage ban here. Schools are instead trying to define the kinds of clothes that are off-limits, as opposed to just simplifying things to "No cleavage (of any variety)." I'm all for keeping it simple...and keeping it covered.

03 August 2006

WASL Redux

Summer Seminars are done. :) On Monday, we soldier forth into WASL testing. I've arranged the space, "table tented" the id tags, bought hundreds of bottles of water and snacks, sharpened umpty dozen pencils, and brought all of the tests up to the area and secured them. Proctors are trained and kids have their postcards with dates, times, and allowed items. We're as ready as we'll ever be.

And the kids? The ones who've attended the Seminars feel like they're prepared. They're ready to rock.

Teachers are cautiously optimistic---thinking that the kids who the program was designed for are shoo-ins for passing and the others are still probably not going to make it...but will get a lot closer. I've already had several phone calls from kids and parents who did not do the Seminars and have changed their minds about testing next week.

I'm looking forward to the quiet calm of the testing environment. It will be good to have a few days where my main worries are cell phones and the use of mechanical pencils. I only have to be in one space all day and there will be very little to do. I'm hoping that the kids who do come will be successful---and certainly knowing that everyone who is there wants to be there and intends to put forth their best effort should engender a certain esprit de corps. We'll all hold a bit of breath in until scores are released in October.

02 August 2006

The Dark Side

It always interests me as to how many teacher-bloggers out there are always ready to bash Central Office. The place is an evil entity, viewed as being antithetical---or at minimum, a hindrance or obstacle---to the work of a classroom teacher. I suppose that before I moved over to the Dark Side, I harboured some similar views. Now I just think they're misplaced.

For starters, the vast majority of people who work at the Head Shed are classified personnel. Do you like your paycheck? Benefits? Teaching supplies, copy machines, computers? These people make it all happen for you. I'm not saying that they don't make mistakes or that some of them aren't awkward to work with, but if you're blaming them because you don't like what you're supposed to be doing in the classroom, you might want to look elsewhere when you're pointing your finger.

Some of us (like me) are teachers just like you. We get paid the same but have different responsibilities. It's true---I don't have to grade many papers or deal with daily classroom issues. But you know what? Your kids are my kids, too. I don't cart around 150 of them in my head as I did when I taught. Now I get to think about what's happening with 12,000 of them. You know all of those mandates being handed to us from the feds and state lawmakers? We do what we can to help translate them for classroom use. Instead of every single teacher having to make this happen, we're there so that you have more time to focus on your kids and your instruction---not the alignments.

Perhaps the finger should be aimed at the admins in Central Office? There are some inept ones around---and others who have completely lost touch with what happens in a real classroom. Bad decisions are made. And then, I think that more teachers should cut the district admins some slack. The admins can't be as myopic as we are in our own classrooms---they have so much more information to consider, weigh, and respond. I don't always like what happens with the admins with whom I work, but I always start from the belief that they are doing the best that they can for everyone under current conditions and expectations.

If teachers are unhappy with the way things are going in their schools, Central Office quickly becomes an easy target. But I hope that at least some will stop to think about who it is they're really irritated with---do you really want to blame the secretary in HR because you have to teach to the standards? Is the tech guy at fault because there's a state test? Did the supe come up with the graduation requirements? I understand teachers' frustrations, but directing all of them onto the people viewed as on the Dark Side is likely misplaced. Everyone has to do what they can and are expected to do in order to make sure that kids get what they need...even those of us working alongside teachers in the trenches.

01 August 2006

The Toys of Summer

Summer is a great time to play. Even though I've been involved with Summer Seminar, I've still found several things with which to amuse myself.

One is Mozilla. Why on Earth did I use Internet Explorer for so long? I love the "open in new tab" feature and am enjoying exploring the various add-ons. I'm much happier with my websurfing these days.

219/147 Days by rogerstryker CC-BY-NC
This is my new outdoor toy: an alligator lopper. It's a little chainsaw enclosed in shears and is one heckuva lot of fun. You can saw through all sorts of things in a heartbeat, which hopefully does not include body parts. Considering that you have to apply pressure to both handles for it to run, there's not as great of a possibility as with a regular (and very open) chainsaw. Go get one and make your neighbours jealous!

As for the great indoors, I've really enjoyed making tarts. Considering all of the yummy raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries in the yard, I just had to do something. Since I hadn't tried my hand at tarts, this seemed like the year to get a new pan or two and have at it. Do yourself a favour and try out the raspberry tart recipe in this month's Gourmet magazine. My twist? Mix in a little cocoa in place of the flour to give the dough an infusion of chocolate.

Raspberry Frangipane Tart by Three Points Kitchen CC-BY-NC-SA

Have you found some fun of your own this summer to share?