Wednesday, January 30, 2013

0200: Flashing Lights, Zero Tolerance, and a Fight

#education #zerotolerance #discipline

As I was leaving school yesterday, driving through the neighborhood I saw 3 cop cars pulled over, lights flashing. I drove slowly by only to see one of my students and another student from school sitting in a driveway heads down hands cuffed behind their backs. I pulled over and asked a lingering student what had just gone down. “They were fighting” he told me, “over something stupid.”

I arrived at school this morning and was told to watch for them, they were to be sent to the office upon arrival. For fighting they will be suspended for 10 days. It’s the protocol adopted by the district. Zero tolerance. The fight was over something that had supposed transpired on Facebook.

The suspension is no surprise. Again, it’s protocol. However, as many of you know these students will now be out of school for 2 weeks which will only lead to more problems. They’ll be behind. They are home with little to know supervision. It will be nearly impossible to catch up. They’ll lose motivation. The student I teach comes from a less than joyful home environment and has been working on her anger. This is a major setback.

There must be another alternative. Surely, we could spend time working to improve their ability to communicate or solve problems or something useful besides worrying about test scores so much that we okay zero tolerance policies that deny students education when they slip up. And, 3 cop cars was a little excessive.

The result will not equate to kids who have learned to deal with problems or function better in society. The arrest and suspension will only add to a list of recidivists who are more than acquainted with the damning nature of our punitive systems.

Monday, December 24, 2012

0197: A broken Hallelujah, of sorts, but a warm one

#education #teaching #life #humanity @CletisStump @dloitz

It’s Christmas Eve, or the start of it at least, and I can’t seem to stay asleep. I haven’t been able to really write for the past few months—not consistently. Things have been topsy turvy at best personally and professionally. As a teacher, I’ve been in a haze, as a human I’ve been more awake then ever before. And to avoid being completely obtuse I’ll be flat out truthful. We almost lost my mother-in-law a few months ago, my focus shifted to supporting my wife. She’s still recovering, but doing so nicely. Then, after that seemed to be clearing up, my wife was in a head on collision. She called my from the accident when she came to, before or after calling for help. She told me “I’ve been in a head on collision, and I can’t move.” I was on lunch duty. I walked out grabbed my things, and told my principal I had to go. He took care of things that day and the next. My wife is still recovering, by the way, and back at work. Not paralyzed. Still struggling though.

A week or so later, the school shootings. A colleague shared with me that one of her grown personal children had been attacked by their spouse. Attempted murder. Just blow after blow. And, of course, the punches keep on coming. Out of it all, the adage, “Any day above ground is a good one.” comes to mind. A bar tender in college told me that. That bit of wisdom passed to me through a most perfect human interaction has brought me such joy; rather, it has made me aware of the joyous things right before me in such a seemingly bleak time.

And this moment of joy reminds me of why I teach. Teaching is one of those jobs that allows for, demands even, that we connect with our fellow human being. We are not teachers to meet some quota, or make test scores happen, or discipline people, or train automatons, or even happily keep our jobs. We exist to help make possible the awakening of a consciousness from this dismal world of subsidized slumber. We hope beyond hope to be a part of the humanization of another and to join in the mutual benefit from that moment.

I’ve tried to revive my hope in my chosen profession, to much avail, through philosophical ponderings and pontification. And it is bleak. It’s the system and its trappings that are bleak, not us. We are human beings. We teach human beings. If ever I have had reason to write a Hallelujah, this is it. Cheers dear friends.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I teach in a prison for kids. I try to see it differently, but I can’t. It’s a corporately monitored public prison for less than wealthy kids. Here’s to the top down managerial model of authoritarian education.

Bleak, I know, but this moment shall pass.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Each day morning announcements at my school lasts at least 15 to 20 minutes each morning. That’s 45% of 1st period. Ridiculous.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

0188: Lesson Preparation vs. #Surveillance Lesson Plans

#education #SOSchat #follow @symphily #rebel

I am a big fan of planning for my classes. If I’m prepared, then I teach better— there’s no question about it. Having a plan keeps me on track; it also allows me to deviate from MY plan whenever I find it necessary. Essentially there’s a freedom in planning. However, my lesson plan is not a script to follow. I function more as an extemporaneous improv-er, than a heavily scripted actor (who is fined for deviating from the script).

It should be evident that I have some problem with the expectation of lesson plans. And, the problem is not with giving them to an administrator to know what I’m teaching. While I would like to be trusted as a teacher to do my job, I understand that there may be a need to monitor a bit. I also know that there are stacks of paperwork to be collected for documentation that goes up the ladder. I get it.

While fighting the part of me that I’ve been taught is a lunatic, I can’t help but believe there is an insidious intend behind the heavy monitoring and regulation of lesson planning. There’s the constant recommendation, in teacher education programs and in faculty meetings, that we stick to the plan, and the requirement that we match each plan to a state provided objective. And then, each plan must provide enough detail that someone else could come in and teach my lesson (a script is preferred at some schools— not all). I’ve been in places where lessons are expected to be timed. And if there’s something not provided in the curriculum, even if you find it necessary to teach, you can’t teach it—or at least include it in your plan. If your caught deviating from the approved plan you might get a note in your box, or a reprimand, or worse.

It’s good to plan your lessons. It’s a problem when lesson plans become a tool of surveillance and panoptic disciplinary reinforcement.

Fight the insidious power. Deviate from your plan. Deviate from their plan. Teach to enrich lives. Teach a human curriculum. Get your “job” done so you can do your job.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

0187: Rebellious #Teachers Teach People, Not Curriculum

#education #firstyear #occupyedu #SOSchat

I was talking to a few of the first year teachers, there are quite a few, the other day about their experience so far. Some are looking pretty haggard. I see some of the signs of dying idealism in their eyes. Others look as though they’ve been whipped. They’re all fighting the negativity that often comes with first years in rough schools. They’re all having trouble with the bureaucratic side.

One piped in during our discussion that he was always under the gun about his lessons plans. He feels like his students are engaged, and they are. Overall, his classroom management skills are in line, and he’s doing his job. But, the lesson plans are always a fail. Mind you, administration is asking for at least 3 pages per objective with at least 3 objectives taught per week times 3 different courses taught. That comes to a whopping 27 pages of lesson plans. They basically want them scripted, which is crazy. My colleague cannot see the logic in this either. He feels like an outline should do, and then he could fill in the rest of the information, or better, actually spend time prepping for class rather than producing a 27 page document to be criticized by administration and the dark lord evaluators. “What am I supposed to do?” he asked.

This teacher is motivated. He’s an alternate route certification teacher, who bleeds passion. He lacks the pedagogical jargon and is still quite green, but he’s intelligent and motivated. And he’s growing weary of trying to meet the demands of those who do not teach.

My response to his inquiry was simple, “Learn to maneuver through the bureaucracy. Figure out how to make them think you’re doing what they want you to, or what they’re requiring you too, and then do what is best for the children in your classroom.” He looked shocked. We discussed how the education system is not particularly logical in many areas, and the system in not necessarily designed to produce happy healthy citizens. The system in only benevolent in word, not deed. The good that is done takes place in the classrooms of teachers that are often deemed rebellious because they reject the corporate agenda. Rebellious teachers teach and support humans, not curriculums and agendas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

0186: The Brilliance of the Logic of the Genius of Punitive Schooling?

#education #teaching #educhat #discipline

My school implements the lovely practice of Saturday school as a punishment for various infractions. Students come to school on Saturday and do “busy work” to pass the time. It’s essentially a Saturday detention. The infractions are not clearly defined. I gather a student could be placed in Saturday school for something as simple as being tardy or making a smart remark to the wrong teacher. It’s a pretty arbitrary process. I’m not new to the school and I still don’t really understand how it works.

The kicker, or punchline, if you will, is this: If you don’t come to Saturday school you get out of school suspension. Which is really brilliant from a student perspective. If punished with extra meaningless school, all I have I do is skip the extra meaningless school, and then I don’t have to come to school at all.

Aren’t we doing a great job keeping our kids in school!

Monday, September 17, 2012

0185: Sneaky Evaluators: Who Sent You, and Why are You Disrupting My Class?

#education #SOSchat #teacher #evaluation
There is a constant stream of evaluators and academic “coaches” streaming through the classrooms at my school. They come in driving unreasonably nice cars, and always look like they just came from a designer boutique and then a full service salon. They look like blooming movie star hopefuls or just well kept wives of the wealthy, noses pointed to the heavens and all. They’re interactions with us lowly teachers come in the form of a note in our box or a message through the principal that we need more of this or that or to put our objectives on a certain part of our boards. These evaluators float through our classrooms on Jimmy Choo heels with iPads in hand. I’ve spoken before, to be polite, when one stepped into my room. She did not look up. She just made a note—perhaps that I’m a distracted teacher.

It’s uncomfortable to have a complete stranger walk in to your classroom and start taking notes with no introduction. Further, it’s disruptive. Kids don’t take strangers lightly always. They’re encroaching on our established safe space. And, I understand what they’re doing and why, many of my colleagues do not. The way they carry themselves is less than desirable, and the fact that I hear they’re “coaches” but they make no attempt to help us know who they are and why they’re with us is problematic. I don’t teach in a rich or even middle class school. We’re humble people of humble means. We have problems, many of which are caused by the segregation of students and allocation of finances in the district. Knowing the district is paying for these celestial snobs to walk through our crumbling building is bothersome and disturbing.

Just let us know why you’re here and who you are. What are you looking for? Are you here to help or screw us? Don’t be sneaky.

It’s bothersome that this is not a rare occurrence in our nations schools. We teachers are under the gun, but we will never know the gunner, nor the reason why they shot us.

Friday, September 14, 2012

0184: Punitive Silence: Baiting Students for Trouble

#education #punishment #strange #SOSchat

I’ve written a bit in the past, long past, about a disciplinary practice my school implements called “Silence”. Basically, students are deemed to be too loud or “unruly” in the halls, or tardy, or whatever, and administration implements a sort of punitive silence. And, while I don’t like it, and notice that it causes more problems in the classroom, I can understand the logic of it—usually. An undesired behavior occurs, so a consequence is given. Makes sense.

Today’s “silence” is a bit unusual. An announcement was made that we would be “going on ‘silence’ to teach our new seventh graders about how things work here…and if [they] don’t obey, they will be placed in Saturday School…”. This seems a little out of line to me. It’s kind of like a playground bully punching you in the nose for the Hell of it just so you’ll know what it feels like—a preventative ass whooping if you will.

I may be out of touch, or out of line, but this seems innocently dystopian (whatever that means).