Tag Archives: Teachers

TOTY

26 Aug

Right now, the conventions are in full swing and soon we will elect a new POTUS and FLOTUS.  President Of The United States and First Lady Of The United States.  Or at least someone will elect one of these clowns into the Whitehouse.

TOTY = Teacher Of The Year.  Our school does this in the fall, which I always thought was a really funny time to do this.  I mean, about 1/4 of the faculty is brand new and don’t know anyone let alone who would be teacher of the year.  So they do what I did my first year and voted for the one they know best or who their more experienced friends suggest.  But since this is an honor bestowed on a teacher based on teaching, it would make more sense to do it at the end of the year when we can look back on what the teacher actually did.  but maybe that’s just me.

It the preliminary round, teachers nominate one of their colleagues for TOTY.  Then the ballots are counted and I think the top 8 or 10 are listed on the next ballot.  Then you circle your favorite and then the nomination is down to 4 or 5.  Then it narrows to 2 or 3 and finally the winner is chosen.  This process takes a few weeks as the teachers always have a few days to fill it out and turn each ballot from each round in.  Then a faculty meeting is called and the winner gets flowers, some cake and a reception or something like that.  The winner of the school TOTY then competes with all of the other TOTY’s from the other schools in the district to become the County TOTY.  This involves filling out a questionnaire and being visited by the school board and superintendent.  Plus there’s all sorts of media coverage.  It’s great fun…unless you’re in the middle of it.

About 4 years ago, I made that first round ballot.  And then I made the second round.  And then the top 3 or 4.  It was totally nerve racking! I don’t mind the national exposure of an internet blog or Teachertube, but the scrutiny of my peers…it was an awesome amount of pressure.  This was made even moreso, because I had some really and truly awesome peers.  There were too many better folks than me that didn’t make the ballot and I knew it.  Fortunately, one of those awesome folks won it.  I don’t remember who won it, but I remember the guy who got 2nd place.  He got 2nd place for the next 3 or so years before finally winning it.  I even kept the first 2 round ballots and didn’t vote because I was just so proud to have my name there!  I may or may not have cast a ballot for myself in my final round, but still made a copy of it that I still have somewhere.  I was proud and scared at the same time.

My first pick didn’t make the first cut this year, which is unusual.  I usually do better at picking someone who at least shows.  However, my name did appear on that list again.  And exactly like 4 years ago, I have some mixed feelings. It’s a great honor to make the ballot at all, as we have over 120 faculty in this building; the largest in the county.  And if any of you fellow teachers read me, I totally get what you’re doing especially if you read my last couple of posts!  It’s okay to vote for someone else…REALLY!  I did.

Seriously, there are some good candidates everywhere in every department.  Fact is, I idolize most everyone else who is “out there” teaching 25-35 students at a time.   I don’t know if I could do that.  I’d like to try someday.  And a bunch of these folks are stepping into other roles like club and class sponsorships, activities like the prom and homecoming plus tons of activities in the community and churches in addition to being awesome teachers.  They are SuperPeople.

I’ve seen many SID/PID teachers become TOTY in their respective schools but they don’t do as well at the county level.  As I’ve said before, we are not increasing test scores or improving the graduation rate. I think a lot of it amounts to a sort of respect that comes from a body saying “Geez, I could never do that!”  So the faculty gives some recognition and TOTY is a good vehicle for that.  Actually, it’s one of the only vehicles faculty have for honoring one of their own.  I wish they had a Para of the Year award as well, as I think it would help boost their level of recognition.

So I get it.  Thanks for the support, and I like it as long as I don’t make anymore of the cuts.  Been there, done that and it was sort of fun but it really is stressful!  I feel the love, really.  Now go vote for someone who really deserves it and can carry the MHS* TOTY torch to a district victory!

dd

*MHS = Magnolia High School which is the blogname for the school I teach at.

Frustrations

20 Aug

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I’m frustrated today.

I can find any number of reasons to be frustrated on a given day, but most of the time it just sort of passes and I move on in the space of a few minutes. However, today I’m just frustrated generally about the increasingly tight restrictions and procedures dealing with NCLB.

It has been awhile since I have vented my spleen on this particular legislation and the idiots who developed the law and the clowns who continue to push it as if it were the greatest thing in the world. I will never vote for any politician who supports NCLB. Period. And for the record that includes every senator running for president. I’ll sling the crap on GW Bush for assembling the unholy coalition that allowed this travesty to be inflicted upon this country’s youth. And what it does to kids with severe disabilities….there is no spot in Hell vile enough, hot enough or painful enough for those perverted sadists who would inflict even greater discrimination, humiliation and degradation upon these kids.

Every one of my kids will get a regular education diploma, even though none of them can write or spell their names. Few of them can pick out a picture of themselves from an array of 3. Even fewer can pick out their written name from an array of three. We are working on identifying the numbers 1 and 2. We are working on counting to 2. They have absolutely no concept of what “2” is. And yet, I am expected to address high school math and literature standards. They will each have a portfolio of pictures sent showing evidence that they have accessed the standards. Then, they will get a regular education diploma after they put in 7-8 years in my program. That means they will get the same diploma as every other student who has actually passed the real graduation tests and did all the work. Which immediately begs the question: just what exactly does a diploma prove?

There will be many students who will not get a diploma, but none of them will have severe disabilities. They may have studied as hard as they could, but they could not pass the test. They may be very employable, but they will not get the diploma that my kids get. The state will say they did not earn it.

And then there’s case where my students get the exact same diploma as your sons and daughters who took advanced classes and got all A’s. It’s the same diploma…are the standards really the same? Just how much is a Georgia diploma worth? I’d say it isn’t worth squat when someone with at IQ of less than 20 can get one. I’d say that the fact that these kids are expected to do the same as those who have IQ’s of 120 is a gigantic farce! But NCLB says that anyone not getting a regular education diploma is considered a drop-out. This is what happens when the baboons in the legislature decide to stick everyone under the same (unfunded) rule. It makes everyone equally worthless!

The time that has not been spent trying to teach them their own names, faces and the numbers 1 and 2 and the shape of a circle has been spent cleaning up drool, snot, pee, blood and poop. Lots of poop today. Almost as much poop as is produced in the federal and state capitals on a daily basis. Too bad poop isn’t considered for the alternate assessment. Too bad poop isn’t one of the standards for graduation as much as it is for being a lawmaker or government bureaucrat.

The First Day of School

1 Aug

I’m often asked about why our district starts on a Friday instead of just waiting until Monday. The reason is, is that opening day glitches always occur and instead of having only a 16 hour turn-around time, we have more than 48 hours to work things out. And there are always things to work out. For instance I know that several bus drivers had not driven their routes before having to pick up children this morning. I know of at least one who got had no idea how to get to the child’s house before calling late last night to let them know the bus number and time of pick-up. Other issues include not enough books, not enough desks, issues with the cafeteria and basically all of the logistics.

As a teacher, the first day of school can be a very long and painful process, and we are very thankful to have a weekend the next day! No matter how much planning is done, it is never enough until the kids come. And there are usually surprises. In this case, my program was really surprised. At the end of last year, it looked like we were losing some kids as they were going to be attending their home schools. However one appealed and the other moved simply to remain in our school zone. In addition to the one new student I knew we were supposed to get (who didn’t show up) we got a new one who moved into our zone. So that zone next door had exactly one student show up, while we seemed swamped with 6! And there are more coming. I didn’t expect to feel this short this fast.

In other news, Georgia is once again observing a sales tax holiday this weekend. It started yesterday and is supposed to be for school clothes and supplies. And once again, teachers are getting a $100 gift card so that we can buy some needed supplies. I’m looking for some news on this, but apparently I’m going to be the one breaking it:

The Georgia Department of Education has received reports from teachers that some merchants are experiencing difficulties processing payments involving Teacher Gift Cards.

The Department has communicated these issues to Bank of America who has determined that there is an issue with the scan feature of the Teacher Gift Cards. Bank of America has assured the State that the problem will be corrected by tomorrow morning – Saturday August 2.

Bank of America recommends that if gift cards are used before tomorrow morning, merchants manually enter gift card information instead of using the scan feature.

The Georgia Department of Education regrets any inconvenience and greatly appreciates your patience as we work to resolve this issue as expediently as possible

Regards,

____________________________________
Scott D. Austensen, CFA
Deputy Superintendent, Finance & Bus. Opns.
Georgia Department of Education

So there you have it. Teachers have to wait until tomorrow to use their gift cards because Bank of America has screwed them up. Why not just give us all $100 in cash? No glitches to worry about there! The reason for the gift cards is so that teachers who often dig into their own pockets for items won’t have to dig as deep. It’s along the same lines as the federal $250 deductions that teachers can take for buying stuff for our classroom s. It’s kind of an effort by the governor and the state legislature to buy more votes. In this case, teacher votes.

This year, we’re going to end up buying more than usual because the orders for supplies that we filed last February have not even been sent. So I can either buy my own stuff or ask parents to supply it for me. I don’t ask too much as the parents of my students are not rich by any stretch. They have their own needs and expenses, and I have learned to deal with what we have, mostly. But I think we’re going to need more bean bags for positioning and I’ll need more media storage space to back up computer files. The one thing I need most, but can’t really buy, is more time. I’ll just have to do better with the time that I have!

See you next week!

Pre-Planning

28 Jul

Well, we are back!  And so am I.  It’s back to the same program and the same room.  If I want to do something else, I’m going to have to transfer to a different school because they are never going to replace me and there isn’t a lot of motivation for anyone to even look for a replacement as long as I’m around.  In many ways, it was stressful to think about transferring to a new position, but in other ways it was stressful thinking about NOT transferring!  My desire and commitment for change will be tested ultimately by my willingness to make it a more major move to another building with all new people and administrators and grade levels.

But in the meantime, I have students here who need me and I’m going to do my best to make it a banner year for them and for me.  I’m going to do everything possible to make it such an outstanding year that everyone else in the building will weep bitterly at my departure!  It’s about being proactive and making things happen and advancing.  That’s going to be the hardest thing, but it’s the most important thing.  I need to really reach and strain ahead.  I need condition myself into stretching.

That’s me, giving myself a pep talk!

Each year there are always changes.  This year, I get to meet the 4th principal I’ve had since starting at this school 9 years ago.  It seems like people come and go so quickly around here!  The new guy looks like he’s trying to tighten things up around here and he has a big job ahead of him.  Our school was among the 52% of Georgia high schools that failed to make AYP this past year.  We have to make it this year in order to keep off of the dreaded “Needs Improvement” list.  As a county district, we also failed for the first time ever, to make AYP.  And it’s going to be harder to do that in order to meet the federally funded mandate of 100% by 2014.  So we can expect every school in the country to be on the Needs Improvement list by 2016.  Students with disabilities continue to be the major subgroup that cause a school or district to fail.  It’s ridiculous to think that every single student is going to master rigorous curriculum standards at the same rate or with equal proficiency as everyone else.  No accommodation or modification is going to erase the reality that some students are not going to learn everything we teach them, even if they want to.  And politicians seem to ignore the reality that there is a small percentage that just doesn’t care that much about doing well in school at any given time. 

Preplanning involves lots of meetings and getting to know new teachers and staff.  It also involves training my own folks and setting the pace for the coming year.  We’ve gotten our room pretty much straightened out.  This isn’t a small task since they removed some teacher desks. And moved everything around when they redid our floor.   I’m going to do my best to have a good attitude this year and fend off the weariness that got to me last year.

D.

The Turn Over at Our School

22 May

We are on the downhill slide of the year. One more day. And I still don’t know what I’m going to be doing next year! My evaluator hasn’t darkened my door in over a month (and that wasn’t for an evaluation but a discipline problem) but I did make evaluating me easier than gravity. I gave her a CD of some video I shot doing some teaching and included my data sheet/lesson plan with it. I knew we were going to be crushed at the end and thought she could use that in a pinch. So we’ll see.

What I do know, is that 1/4 of our faculty is departing this year, and one third of those will be from the special education department. It is going to be hideously hard to fill those vacancies, with mine being the absolute hardest to fill. Let’s face it; people are not beating my door down trying to get in. They might try to keep me in this room for another year, which would be stressful but I would do it with the understanding that this would be my last year at this high school. I won’t be screwed over twice. This state of limbo makes it hard to prepare for summer inservice classes as they are offering several co-teaching classes but they want the co-teachers to take the class together. That’s a bit difficult when a large number of those who will be doing the co-teaching are not even hired yet!

So why the big turn-over? For one thing, our principal is leaving. The new principal will be principal #4 for me. Administrators come and go. If you don’t like the one you got, wait a few years and you’ll get a new one. If you like the one you have, enjoy it because the wind will shift directions pretty soon. Fightin’ Joe was an assistant for a few years before taking the head job, and while he was an AP we saw quite a bit of him in my room and with my kids. He even played the role of Santa Clause during a Christmas party we had one year. I know – totally not age appropriate! Once he became the head guy, we rarely ever saw him. And really, that is absolutely fine with me. I know he had bigger fish to fry with AYP (which we made most years he was principal) and while I appreciate any time an administrator spends with us, no news is mostly good news. Administrators traditionally have to spend most of their time putting out fires and the fact that we’ve had relatively few has been a relief to us all.

Another reason we might be seeing higher turnover might have something to do with this Washington Post article. My previous article touched on that theme a bit, and I agree with Steven Rothman that somehow parents are micromanaging their schools to death. My take on it is that parents want to hold the schools responsible for raising their children, and when teachers and schools fail to raise the children (as they most certainly will) parents get upset. They are less concerned about the education their children receive as much as they are about making excuses for their child’s behavior or lack of progress. We live in an age where people can take charge of their own education and learning and yet precious few are actually doing that. They want others to hold their hands and babysit and nag them.

The answer to this is not going to come from us as educators. It has to come from us as parents. I am totally in favor of parents banding together, sharing resources, ideas or even complaining about us as teachers. But too often, these groups become gripe festivals that incite parents to go after the schools in order to demand more and more while offering very little. The autism groups are probably the most notorious offenders of all. I can tell when I have a parent that is being coached by a real life or online group. The adversarial relationship is there from the start, and parents are braced for battle. It’s one thing if the school or teacher has earned it by failing to educate as they are supposed to. But parents will too often wait until the IEP to air every complaint, and instead of an hour-long meeting, we end up there all day. Working things out ahead of time, instead of springing all the demands at once can salvage a lot of good will. Teachers should do this as well, sharing information on a regular basis. As educators, we can minimize a lot of the micromanagement by practicing a certain degree of transparency in what we are doing.

But in the end, it is up to parents to establish the prevailing culture of their neighborhoods and communities. I’m sure many of you know of children in your neighborhood running wild, making a nuisance of themselves, staying out entirely too late on school nights and basically not behaving in a responsible manner. And the parents let them. But I know that the neighbors can have more influence in the form of peer pressure. Peer pressure doesn’t end with high school. In the case of kids with disabilities, you might know of parents who seem to cultivate dependence by doing everything for the child except chew his food for him. Most kids can put on their own coats, use the toilet and eat with a spoon before they go to kindergarten. And yet there’s a group of parents who expect the schools to train the special needs kids to do these things. How do other kids learn this stuff without schools and teachers? This is why the school and parents need to be part of a cooperative partnership.

I’m sure I’ve spouted on long enough on this theme. Later this summer, my family and I will be going on a real vacation and seeing and learning about different areas of the country. It’s going to be better than whatever the school system can offer, but I don’t feel the need to force the public system to provide those kinds of educational experiences and opportunities. We’re doing it as parents, and that’s as it should be.

D.