My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.


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PARCC It Here


May 16, 2016

Dear Readers,

It’s test time again across this great nation of ours and apparently I’m not allowed to discuss our state mandated, high stakes test. In fact, neither are my students. Seriously?  Seriously. As I was reading my students the scripted test instructions, I had to re-read the sentence warning students to not even talk about the test. I’m familiar with instructions about not talking during the test. But heaven help me! We can’t even talk about the test? Huh?

Apparently, in this corporate takeover, data driven, standardized reform-y thing we call school, teachers are having both hands tied behind their backs.     We won’t see the results of the tests until next school year, and now the students can’t even talk to us, their teachers, about the questions they had to answer. 

This is a really big deal. Teachers across the nation are being threatened by the almighty PARRC for writing about, thus revealing, how inept and inaccurate their test for 4th grade students is. I strongly urge you to read the following ‘copy and paste’ and pass along the information you deem worthy. Thank you. 

Peace, ~v. 

https://gatorbonbc.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/parcc-can-go-scratch-please-re-post-on-your-blog-share-widely/

PARCC Can Go Scratch! Please Re-Post on your Blog. Share Widely.

Posted on May 15, 2016 by GatorBonBC

The PARCC Test: Exposed
The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.
I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask — whom are we protecting?
There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.
The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate
In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.
A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]
The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9–12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).
Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6–8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?
So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.
Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1
Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.
Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”
Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.
The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”
However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school — a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]
The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2
Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.
Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.
It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”
In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.
However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)
ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3
In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.
Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.
Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)
Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.
Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)
So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.
We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system — such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.
In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.


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My Kids vs. Bebe’s Kids


April 24, 2016

Dear Readers,

At the end of every school year I’ve been teaching, I’ve run into the same problem: my kids vs. bebe’s kids.  I think a little background is in order before I continue my post.

Bebe’s Kids (pronounced bay-bay) was a 1992 movie based on a stand-up routine by the late American comedian, Robin Harris.  Bebe’s kids, the expression, has worked its way into the vernacular of urban America.  Bebe’s kids is a term used to describe young children who are rowdy and/or misbehaving, who seemingly have no home training.  Used in a sentence:  The students hurling spit wads in the hallway are bebe’s kids.

Lest you get the wrong idea, bebe’s kids are not delinquents, they are not the young juveniles committing crimes.  They are also not the well-mannered, polite students that most parents believe their children to be.  No, bebe’s kids are somewhere in-between.  Bebe’s kids are middle-school students.

At the start of every school year, I spend a great deal of time turning 100 or so bebe’s kids, into my kids.  Bebe’s kids put their feet up on classroom chairs and desks, and they hardly ever say “Please,” or “Thank you,”, unless it’s to their advantage.  Bebe’s kids almost always answer, “Yeah?”, or the always annoying, “What?” when addressing adults.  And they pick their nose, they burp, they fart, and they sneeze loudly in public.  Bebe’s kids have a hard time understanding why 12 year-olds do not have the same privileges as their teachers, “That’s not fair!  How come I can’t _________ (fill in the blank).”

Nine months later and some of my kids still have trouble keeping their hands and feet to themselves.  To be honest, I get lax at times and can be seen propping my feet up on my desk…but mostly not in front of my students.  Most of my kids remember to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” and are not nearly as rude as they were nine months ago.  Most, not all, but most, have stopped picking their noses in class, and I only occasionally hear one of my kids burp and/or fart during class.  Bodily noises ceased being funny for most of my kids on about the second month we were together; they were never funny to me.

As for my kids whining about how life is unfair and they should have the same privileges as I have at school, well, let’s just say they more or less suck it up during class.  Oh, most still think they are equal to me.  They are just better at hiding their entitlement while in my presence.  For the most part, my kids have begun to show signs of maturing.  Of course, it’s what I expect from them.  That’s not to say there are still a few bumps in the classroom.  The following was a true exchange:

“Why are you late?” I ask one of my kids as she hurries through the door, long after the tardy bell has rung.

“Whaaat?”

“Oh, this is going to be good,” I muse to myself.  “Why are you late?” I repeat.

“Oh, because I was walking over here and when I got right around the corner, I was with my friend, So-and-so, and she saw me, do you want me to go get her?  And I was right over there and I was coming to class and you guys saw me right?  And I knew the bell was going to ring, and the bell rang, and I was walking over here, and…I fell.”

True exchange, dear Readers, she fell.  Of course I wasn’t done with her.  “So, um, you fell, right?”

“Yeah, I mean yes, I fell.”

“Are you alright?!” I ask in mock concern.

“Yes.”

“Do you need to see the nurse?”

“Uh, no, I already saw her.”

“Oh, you did?  She let you see her without a pass?  That was certainly generous of her.”

“Yeah, well she wasn’t busy.”

“How  lucky for you.  And surely she had you sign in and sign out, right?”

“Uh, no, she just gave me an ice pack and I left.”

“And where is the ice pack?”

“Oh, I threw it away before I got here.”

“Of course.  So let me recap:  You were on your way to my class with your friend, you fell, you went to the nurse, she didn’t sign you in, she gave you an ice pack, sent you on your way, and never signed you out, you threw the ice pack away before you got to class, and that is why you are late.  Do I have that right?”

“Yeah, I mean, yes.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to change any of the details in your story?  Now would be a good time to tell me why you were really late.”

“Gawd!  That is why I’m late!  You don’t hafta believe me!  Just ask my friend, So-and-so, she’ll tell you.  I should go get her.”

“No, that’s quite alright.”

With a self-satisfied smile, my student sits down, believing for all the world that she just got away with putting one past me…until she sees me pick up the phone in my room.

“Hello Ms. Nurse, this is Ms. Kunzmann.  I’m calling to check on one of my students who fell earlier and said she had stopped by your office to get an ice pack.  Her name is (blank) and she was just there.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Kunzmann, I never treated that student today.”

“Oh, I must be mistaken.  My apologies Ms. Nurse.  Sorry to have bothered you.”

And that was the end of it.  My student had a rueful, smile on her shamed face (at least she had the good grace to be embarrassed), and we got on with the business of 7th grade language arts.  Later during class, my student apologized to me, and I accepted.

I don’t expect my students to be perfect.  Heck, I’m not perfect, and I let my kids see my flaws.  I just want my kids to be accountable for their words and their actions.  It takes more of my time to ensure that they are held accountable in my classroom, than to just let them think they got away with some untoward word and/or deed.  It also takes a heck of a lot of repetition; they usually don’t get the lesson the first time.  But in the end, it’s worth it.

So, nine months into the ten month school year, and I am happy with the progress each and every one of my kids’ has shown.  Their teachers next year won’t have too much breaking in to do.  Now, if I can just do something about the other 500 students not under my charge.  Those bebe’s kids will just have to wait until next year.

Peace, ~v.

 

 

 


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ACT Out


March 4, 2015 Dear Readers, I recognize academic burnout when I see it.  Most, if not all of us, have had it a time or two in our lifetime.  I mean, let’s face it, from about the age of 4 or 5, upwards toward 18, we have an excess of compulsory school days in this country.  So yeah, at one time or another, even I, lover of school and all things academic, have had academic burnout.  It is what caused me to dropout of college after only 1 year.  However, by that time, I had been going to school for 14 years.  The thought of continuing another 2 was simply too much for me to take.  I recognize academic burnout. Unfortunately, I am seeing this phenomenon in my students.  “Ho-hum,” some of you might sigh, “it happens to the best of us.”  And indubitably, I would agree.  However, signs of academic burnout in 12 and 13 year-olds used to be few and far between, it was the exception, not the rule. When academic burnout hit me, at age 19, I emptied out my brain of anything and everything remotely school-y, I dropped out of the college scene, and I began working as a cashier at a convenience store.  Now granted, it was certainly not the academic accolades I had always dreamt of receiving, but I worked hard, I began raising my family, and I was a contributing member of society.  And truly, what more could society expect from this college drop-out? Eventually, and by eventually I mean 14 years later, I returned to school, earned a Secondary Education/English B.A, graduated with honors, and became the teacher I knew I was always meant to be. But that was me.  That was 19, 20 year-old me.  What path is there for a 12, 13 year-old academic burnout? Even as I say it, it sounds ludicrous, “12, 13 year-old academic burnout!”  But I’ve seen it; am seeing it.  And it breaks my heart.  It breaks my heart not because they will have an adverse effect on society, although chances are…  No, it breaks my heart because the joy of learning has all been sucked out of education and out of my students’ lives, if in fact, it was ever there to begin with. My students cannot recall a time in their education when they weren’t being tested to death.  And that, dear Readers, breaks my heart. This past Tuesday marked the 21st instructional day my students have given up to testing.  Wait, scratch that; the 21st instructional day that has been stolen from my students.  Of the mere 51 school days so far this year, my students have slogged through 8 Common Formative Assessments (CFAs), 8 re-take CFAs, 4 days of Galileo Summative Assessments, and now, the ACT Explore.  The 16 CFAs to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, the 4 days of Galileo to gauge how well they grasped the content of the individual standards, and the ACT as a pre-cursor as to how well they should expect to do on their college entrance exam!  Seriously?  Seriously. As I walked up and down the rows of 8th graders, I wanted them to act out, act up, act indignant, act insulted, act like they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore.  Admittedly, all they could do was act lethargic.  And sadly, that was no act.  21 of my students’ 51 school days have been eaten up with testing.  A full 41% of their time under my tutelage has been snatched away because of testing.  Almost every other day.  Testing. Today, and I’m no social scientist here, but today’s junior high school students are exhibiting signs of academic burnout so frequently as to be considered normal.  Is this what we, as a nation, are striving for?  Is this the goal of our education communities?  Is this how academia as we know it will end, not with a bang, but with a whimper?  Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.  Peace, ~v.


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The Role Models


It is unclear to me how I maintain a "Bully Free Classroom."

It is unclear to me how I maintain a “Bully Free Classroom.”

September 4, 2014

Dear Readers,

I sat down last night to write my latest blog post, wrote it, but couldn’t bring myself to publish it. Something just didn’t feel right. I saved the post and went to bed.

The post I wrote yesterday, but couldn’t seem to post, was about bullies and their bullying behavior. In all my years as a teacher, I have never had such a problem with bullies. Since the start of the school year, I have had more than my fair share of encounters.  It didn’t dawn on me that I was experiencing an unusually high volume of bullying in my classroom, until last week at parent/teacher conferences.

No less than five (5) of my students’ parents brought up the subject of bullying.  Each wanted to know what is being done about students being bullied, teased, threatened and mocked.  These parents conveyed to me that it was their son and/or daughter that were the victims, and had been for at least 2 years!  I was appalled, dear Readers.  I was unwilling to believe that this behavior had not been otherwise stymied by the administration and the faculty, at large.  I was unwilling to believe that, dear Readers, until today.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  And the good people at my school were doing absolutely nothing about the bullying problem, at least as far as I could tell.  Thus, the evil has been allowed to triumph.  As a matter of fact, not only has the evil been allowed to triumph, it has been allowed to thrive.  How does that happen, dear Readers?  Evil is allowed to thrive when the people in charge, the people that lead the charge, the role models, they are themselves, the bullies! 

In the past 24 hours, I have been bullied by three of my fellow educators.  In the past 24 hours, I have been bullied by three of my fellow educators in front of my students.  Well, no wonder some of my students are such bullies; that is what the adults around them are modeling.  No me.  Each time I was confronted and the bullying commenced, I stood up for myself and said, “We can have this conversation away from the students.”  In which the bully replied, “Never mind,” yet kept on trying to intimidate me.  And I do know that it had an effect on my students, because inevitably after each incident, my students began teasing me for allowing another teacher to speak to me in such a way as to be bullied.  Sigh.

See my dilemma, dear Readers?  I cannot allow this behavior to continue, whether it be my students or the faculty.  And now it’s a race against the clock.  Now, dear Readers, time is of the essence.  I fear I must find a solution, quickly, because today, I stumbled upon one of my being bullied boys.  You know what he was doing?  Yes, that’s right, he was aggressively bullying another student.  (please pray for) Peace, ~v.


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Missteps, Mistakes and Mississippi


July 22, 2014

Dear Readers,

Every year I go back to school forgetting how difficult it is to start back up again. Several things have come together this year to form the perfect storm, not the least of which is less me time.

Last year I had 8th grade and this year I have 7th. Because of this change, I must create all new lesson plans. Right there, less me time. I know, I know, why didn’t I do my lesson plans over the summer. I wish I could have. However, the company with which our school district contracts to create our curriculum, did not have it available until the week before I went back to school.  Thus, I could do no lesson plans over the summer…darn!  I know, I know, I should be working on lesson plans right now.  Misstep.

But I have been doing a little bit of my plans, really.  Here’s the thing, though, I do not create my own tests.  The company the district uses to create the curriculum also creates the tests.  Okay.  I am told what to teach my students, I am told when to teach it to them, and I am told how to assess them.  This would be fine, except the tests are riddled with errors.  And not just simple, “Oops, I misspelled a word,” errors.  But huge, glaring, “I could drive a truck through the holes in this test,” errors.  For example, one test has an excerpt of an informational article for the students to read and then answer questions.  Only problem is, the answer to two of the questions is nowhere in the excerpted article.  I did some digging and found the original article available on-line.  When the test makers took an excerpt of the article, they did not include the part that contained the answers to two of their questions!  And the test only has five questions.  How am I supposed to deal with that?  The tests are copyrighted so I cannot change them.  Administration’s response is to…well, they haven’t gotten back to me as to what I should do.  Mistake.

There is a bright spot in all of this, dear Readers.  Driving an hour to work and an hour home each day is giving me time to catch up on my reading.  No I do not carpool, I drive myself.  I have taken to enjoying audio books.  I have been soooooo reluctant to listen to books.  I enjoy reading books so much so that I cannot even stand Kindles.  I love the feel of a book in my hands, the way the paper crunches, just a bit, as I turn the pages.  I love the way I get lost in the setting of a book and the way my mind envisions the characters, and I was under the impression I could only get lost and envision while my mind was focused on nothing else.  I was wrong, gladly, I was wrong.  I began listening to audio books over the summer while driving to and from summer school.  Not only did the time go by quickly, I found I could still get lost in the setting and envision the characters while driving.  I found I rather enjoy being read to.  It takes me back to my second grade teacher, Mrs. Pickett, and the way she would read a book to us every few weeks.  And that was where my love of reading began.  I have come full-circle.  By the way, I am listening to a book right now titled Sycamore Row by John Grisham.  The central character is a lawyer and of course there is a mystery to unravel.  I can envision the characters and I love getting lost in the setting…Mississippi.

Again, I leave you dear Readers with more of my beautiful pictures.  One of you, dear Readers said it perfectly, “God’s paintings.”  Thank you, DP.  And thank you all, dear Readers for allowing me to ramble my way into your lives.  Peace, ~v.

 

 

 

 

 


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Observations From Behind


July 16, 2014

Dear Readers,

At 7:15 this morning, my school year officially began. Well, my school year officially began at 7:32, I was late. No matter though, I only missed breakfast, served in the junior high cafeteria complete with the little jr. high tables and little jr. high seats and a jr. high breakfast. Yum. Rest assured, those of you who believe teachers are failing our children, most administrators are failing teachers, so we are kinda even.

If you are a teacher, you would probably do well to skip this section as I would hate to be responsible for any flashbacks you might experience. I am currently, well, writing this blog post, the teacher across from me is playing Candy Crush, the teacher next to him is checking out his Facebook, the teacher to my left is stuck on an Emoji puzzle, and the rest of the hundred or so district educators are praying they do not win the door prize.  This year’s prize?  Season tickets to the Colorado River’s series of concerts, otherwise known as what passes for cultured entertainment in a ridiculously small town.  There are several male teachers within my earshot who are teasing one another about what they will do if they in fact, win the door prize…I can’t really distinguish what they are saying as I am scrunched down behind one of them so I can surreptitiously write my blog post from my iPhone without anyone being the wiser.

I’m ear hustling some of my colleagues’ more interesting sounding side-conversations.  Not to be done in polite company, I know.  But, it is blessedly keeping me from nodding off. One teacher is having a running commentary with her text messages.  She has items listed on Craigslist but is having trouble trying to text back her potential customers.  That’s about as interesting as it’s gonna get around here.  Unless I want to listen to a plethora of, “How was your summer’s?” I may have to actually pay attention to the Welcome Back to School presentations.

Now here is the ultimate in irony. A trainer from the local health club is droning on and on about the benefits of physical exercise.  His goal is to encourage all of us overworked, under excersized educators to sign up for a membership to his gym, at a substantial discount of course.  The irony of it all is that the people responsible for today’s presentations and such are the same people responsible for seeing to it that our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students no longer have recess.  Seriously?  Mr. Gym Guy gets to preach to a bunch of mostly middle-aged teachers about the benefits of running around to keep our bodies in shape.  Meanwhile, our 11, 12, and 13 year old students are forced to attend school from 7:15am until 2:30pm with absolutely no recess whatsoever?  I am not exaggerating, dear Readers.  Students are allowed into the cafeteria at 6:45am to eat breakfast and they are not allowed to leave until the morning bell rings at 7:10am.  Then, the students are allowed 30 minutes for lunch, which must be spent in the cafeteria.  They are released when the bell signals that it is time to start the afternoon classes.  NO RECESS.  How many 11, 12, and/or 13 year old kids do you know would be willing to learn after no physical release of their pent up energy?  Jeez, and teachers are to blame for the failure of today’s education.  Yeah, right!

Well dear Readers, another beginning of the year, welcome back presentation has come to an end and I must go prepare my classroom and my lesson plans for my students’ return on Monday.  And just so you know, I often times have cafeteria duty during the school year.  I’ve been known to release the students from the cafeteria 10-15 minutes before lunch is over so that they can run around on the playground before returning to their studies.  I am such a rebel!  It’s gonna be a great year!  Peace, ~v.


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What I Did This Past Summer


Look closely, gaming sites were more popular than the education sites.

Look closely, gaming sites were more popular than the education sites.

June 13, 2014

Dear Readers,

My two week stint as a summer school teacher has come to an end and so, it is time for reflection.  Educators worth their salt know that in order to improve their effective instructional practices, reflection is a must at the end of every lesson, unit, day, month, year, professional development class, etc.  It helps to see what works, what needs improvement, how we can better serve our students, our schools, our colleagues, our communities, ourselves, etc.  In other words, how to use every waking, breathing, livable moment of our lives to create master teachers, dang it, because we teachers, are failing our students!

My apologies, dear Readers, for my little soapbox rant.  I am back on track now.  Although it may appear that I am poking fun at reflection insofar as it relates to my teaching, I believe it to be a valuable tool in assessing what I need to improve upon.  Unfortunately, without the cooperation of the other ‘players’ on the educational field, my improvement will only go so far in helping our students to achieve.  The players’ roster includes, but is not limited to, students, other teachers, administrators, parents, and even society at large.  Now, how’s a girl supposed to get all of those entities on board the “Yea, Learning!” train?  I’ll tell you, it ain’t easy!

For the past two weeks, I was the instructor of record for a credit recovery class for a group of 6th and 7th grade students.  For those of you dear Readers who thought disinterest in institutionalized learning began in high school, I can assure you that it does not.  Yes, it seems that even 11 and 12 year olds need help recovering their credits.  Gone are the days when little Suzy or little Johnny had to repeat a grade because of failing marks.  Now, (cue Superman theme song) teachers can advance a pupil’s learning ability through the help of self-directed, computer based programs.

For the past few years, computer based learning programs have become all the rage.  Which is fine, for a certain section of the student population.  The demographics for that certain student population, I believe, would be as follows:  self-motivation.  Yes, dear Readers, self-motivation is the key.  Without that, self-directed, computer based programs are difficult to teach at best, and a disaster waiting to happen, at the very least.  Here is where I come in.

My class started with 18 students, 3 girls and 15 boys, all completely disinterested in spending 4 consecutive hours staring at a computer screen and me staring at their backs.  Of the three girls, two were highly interested in the boy seated next to them.  Moving the girls away from their love interest did no good, they just moved their interests along with their seats.  And sending them to the office did no good, as they were right back in my class the next day.  Sigh.  As for the boys, two slept their way through the first two days of class, four kept trying to hide the fact that they were spending the majority of their time on gaming sites, and three of the boys could not stay seated (one kept wandering aimlessly around the room, while the other two simulated professional wrestlers in the middle of the room).  As for the remaining 9 boys, three tried to continuously get onto web sites that had been blocked by the school district, one tried to hack into the control panel, and one wore an ankle monitoring device that kept beeping because it needed to be recharged.  So, for those of you keeping track, of the 18 students on my roster, exactly 5 were willing to learn.  Unfortunately, they were the five neediest of the bunch.  You know the type; cannot type a word without the approval of the teacher.  So all day long it’s, “Miss, Miss, Miss, c’mere, pleeeeeease, I need your help.  Miss, Miss, did I do this right?  Miss, why don’t you help me?”  Sigh.

"Hey, if the teacher is waaay over there, she can't see what we are doing on the computer, right?"

“Hey, if the teacher is waaay over there, she can’t see what we are doing on the computer, right?”

I can laugh now, dear Readers, summer school is over.  And although it does sound like a comedy of errors, that is exactly what it was like the first few days.  By the end of the first week however, the students got on track, with a few exceptions.  By the end of the second week, all but those few exceptions had passed the classes they had failed throughout the regular school year and recovered their credits.  Not bad for two weeks of summer school.  As for the few exceptions, the three boys trying to get onto websites blocked by the district, well, they managed to get on some of them.  What were the sites you may ask?  Well, let’s just say that three of my students now have a very good grasp on the female anatomy, a very good grasp.  Sigh.  I guess it goes with the territory.  Here’s to a restful rest of the summer.  Peace, ~v.