Thursday, April 28, 2016

Teacher Appreciation 2016

May 2 – 6 (2016) is Teacher Appreciation Week. One grumpy, old teacher has some ideas as to how he could be shown appreciation.

1    1.      STOP turning the lights out every 10 minutes. My classroom is equipped with a motion detector, which means after 10 minutes of no movement, the lights go out. This not a problem when I have classes, as normal student fidgetiness and teacher circulation to groups keeps the lights on. But when I am on my planning period, sitting at my desk, answering parent email or returning their phone calls, writing new lesson plans, reviewing and grading student work, or doing other paperwork my employer demands, the lights go out. I have to get up and walk through the room, even though I am doing the work required of me. That is particularly egregious in the predawn hours (yes, I get to school one hour or more before my contract time) and there is no light to see by. Why do I have to stumble into furniture and wrack my knees to get the lights back on?

2    2.  Let me decide whether I want ONE-sided or TWO-sided printing when I need to print out lesson plans, student rosters, Department of Ed downloads, and other necessary documents. To force a default to two-sided printing … and when I try to make it one-sided, you separate the first page as one-sided and do the rest of the printing as a separate two-sided request. Micromanaging teachers to this level is ridiculous, my dear employer. But the joke’s on you. I now print out two copies of everything. Not only have you not saved  paper, you have extra expenses for toner, electricity, and machine maintenance.

3    3. Give me the supplies I need so I can carry out your requests. Every professional development session I go to, we work in groups and chart our responses. But when I want to do this in my classroom, my supply request for chart paper is denied. Really? But getting teenagers to work in groups, chart their work, and report to the class is deemed “best practices.” But you won’t buy me $30 worth of chart paper for the year even though your budget totals $1.7 BILLION. Not feeling the love.

4    4. Pay my money on time. If you bargain with my union and agree to pay salary supplements, it is not a discretionary expense you can do any old time you feel like it. Why should I wait until late February to receive the money you promised for teaching a hard-to-staff course? Pay me throughout the year, every paycheck, like a reasonable person would. Then you wouldn’t hold to your announced paydate because you said not every principal turned in a list of who was eligble. Really? But as a fellow teacher said, you know what we teach when it comes to sending out the threats of termination for being out-of-field, but you don’t know what we teach when it comes to honoring our contract supplements.

5    5. Stop pushing your great online platforms. I tried to use your testing platform, ran into problems, and was told pointblank by your staff that the Unify platform was NOT for teachers to use. Only test coordinators and administrators should be using it. I tried to give my students the test you pushed, but couldn’t make the online calculator available to them. As a mere teacher, a peon, I am not allowed those privileges. The word you need to find is EMPOWERMENT.

6    6. Treat me like the professional I am. Communicate with me once or twice a month. LEAD, dammit. When I ask a question of district staff, I should receive a direct reply, not a response that came through channels that I cannot talk to them. Your rigid hierarchy is condemning the district to grinding mediocrity. (Not to mention the arrogant egos too many people inflate through such nonsense.) I have good ideas about curriculum. Act like you want to hear from me.  After all, I am the pro in the classroom and can tell you how well a curriculum design is going. Get your noses out of data. It is one source, but not the only source of knowledge about student learning.

7    7. When I tell you the textbook is terrible, you need to believe me. Until you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the classroom, you don’t have the experience I do. You want to raise test scores? LISTEN when I tell you the book is ineffective and the online resources do not help.

I have no illusions I will receive this kind of appreciation. Maybe I’ll get a free lunch one day or a monogrammed pen in my mailbox. That’s all teacher appreciation means these days. But even a grumpy, old teacher still hopes . . .

Monday, April 25, 2016

STEM in Pre-K

An hour after I read this article about President Obama inviting ‘educators’ to a meeting to push STEM education into Pre-K (that’s not a typo), I looked across the room in my Algebra 2 class and saw a freshman playing with his farm animal toys.
I tried really hard not to laugh, but I will be truthful, I couldn’t pull it off. Turnabout is fair play, as the expression goes, so if math has to be pushed into Pre-K, I suppose pre-K can make its way into math.
You have to love the headline because, when you read the story, there are no real educators mentioned. U.S. Department of Agriculture, not educators. Sesame Workshop, while they do great work on T.V., are not real teachers in a real classroom.  Girl Scouts do work with children, but they are not teachers. Nor are any of the other mentions.
I think the DSM people are going to have to issue an update. This STEM obsession is devolving into a mental disorder. Pushing it earlier and earlier will not develop a child’s love of science and technology. It will ruin even earlier a child’s natural curiosity, which if left to its own devices and timetable, will progress as nature intended.
I would like to write 2000 words about this, but really, if you don’t get it right away, thousands of words won’t help.
I’ll leave you with this. The article ended with a quote from Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary (now there’s a title worthy of some pithy sarcasm) for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, to the effect that kids are already being engineers when they play with blocks. She doesn’t want anyone to do anything they’re not already doing, except to start using engineering terms.
Wowsers. As a first year teacher, I learned to cringe and then run whenever I heard anyone say that I was already doing what they wanted. A statement like that meant hours and hours of extra, on personal time, work. If I’m already doing it, why do I need to be told to do it?

But go ahead, Pre-K teachers, begin using that technical vocabulary. Because children who say choo-choo for train, woof-woof for dog, and boo-boo for mistake are ready to learn words like torque, particle, magnetic flux, and watt.

Monday, April 18, 2016

NPE Raleigh: You Are Not Alone.

I promised to write about the NPE conference and here is my first piece. I thought about how to do it—at first I was going to do it chronologically but upon reflection, I think thematically would be better.

I will begin with my big takeaway, but first a disclosure: I’m a big Doctor Who fan. So here is a clip if you want to watch, if not <spoiler alert> I’ll say it right after.

The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords. His people burned up in a cataclysmic war: The Time War. The Doctor survived the final annihilation of both his people and their archenemies, the Daleks. He was alone in the universe, a lonely traveler. Until this, and he heard this message, and I adjust it for us:

Teachers, You. Are. Not. Alone.

Maybe it was listening to attorneys from North Carolina, Connecticut, and New York describing how they won lawsuits in their states regarding laws robbing teachers of established ‘tenure,’ which is really a right to contract renewal unless due process is followed regarding termination, VAM measurements which are normed, that is, the actual score doesn’t matter because the failing labels are assigned to those in the bottom percentiles by fiat.

Maybe it was hearing that every state with a constitutional provision that the state is bound to provide a free, quality public education to every child has been sued for the failure to do so. It is not only your state, teacher, the battle is ongoing in every state.

Maybe it was learning about the networks existing so that despite our great differences among our states, we are learning from one another. Successes in one state are followed up with similar efforts in many other states.

Teachers: WE. ARE. NOT. ALONE.

Parents and community activists are engaged in this fight. From Stamford to Long Island to Philadelphia to Seattle to Raleigh and Atlanta, they are fighting to save their community schools and they stand with and support teachers.

Pastors and faith communities stand in support of their community, public schools. One pastor said the racket needed to stop. He was referring to High Stakes Testing and said Jesus needed to cleanse the temple of that filth.


The Opt-Out movement is strong and growing. Don’t believe the media reports. Parents are leading the way as they refuse to allow their children to be subjected to the abuse of standardized testing.
Attempts to divide and conquer are not working. Reformsters’ attempts to whitewash (yes, they used that word) the Opt-Out movement as a white, suburban concern are failing as many African-American, Latinos, and others are coming forward to add their voices: Refuse the test.


We can win this fight. We will win this fight. We will restore public education to our communities. Because we are not alone. Together, standing united, it is time. Time to take back our schools. Time to end the test (more to come on that). Time to reclaim the promise of a bright future for our children (despite what the reformsters really want—more to come on that).

We can do it. We—YOU—ARE NOT ALONE.

Friday, April 1, 2016

A is for Abuse of Children Florida Style

So I signed up for the April challenge of blogging once a day acrostically (each day's title begins with a new letter of the alphabet moving from A to Z). The challenge is that the first day has to be a snapper, a real attention-grabber, that will keep readers coming back.

Sigh. I started this blog to share my occasional thoughts on education, theology, and world events. It was not meant to be produced on demand or a deadline, but then I did agree to post every day, except Sundays, this month.

Stuck. Geez, looking at these first three paragraphs maybe I should have revealed my eccentricity from the get-go, I'm good with the acrostic, but I'm starting with S. Because S begins the name of my blog, Stone Eggs, yeah, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

In all seriousness (another S?), blogging often seems like the ultimate ego-indulgence. Doesn't everyone in the world want to hear my brilliance? But sometimes someone says it better and, as a blogger, I want to recognize those someones.

I am a teacher. Standardized testing and its accompanying evils are often on my mind. I read many teacher blogs. Here in Florida, many outrageous stories about testing abuse take place every year. I could try to write it myself, but Accountabaloney has said it better. Prepare to be outraged. Here's your link: