Thursday, April 27, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Year Two

In what may be an annual feature of this blog, a grumpy, old teacher returns to share with his employer how he could be shown appreciation this year. Teacher Appreciation Week is May 8 - 12.

(2016's version:

1. OK, you can turn out the lights every 10 minutes, but unhook the air conditioning from that motion detector, puh-leeze. I'll sit in the dark but I'd rather not sweat my clothes into stinkville for 90 minutes before the last period of the day. Yep, the AC goes out with the lights.

2. Can I have a $35 electric pencil sharpener for my students? I'm a math teacher. I'm supposed to insist they use a pencil, but when a child pulls a new pencil out of the backpack and asks for the sharpener, which the school will not buy, I can only say, "Gnaw on the end like a beaver, kid, that's the best I have to offer."

3. If you insist on going with on-line, bookless curriculums, give me a laptop cart for my exclusive use. OR STOP comparing me to other teachers and schools that do get that laptop cart.

4. Believe me and all my fellow secondary math teachers when we say that the Pearson curriculum we are using does not map to Florida standards. Stop belittling us and stop pretending that the right curriculum is teacher-proof. We are not a fire that is going to burn down the building. You don't have to 'proof' anything against us.

5. Call off your dogs. Coaches and specialists return to the classroom. Oh, surprise--they won't go. They became coaches and specialists to get out of the classroom.

6. Support our principals. Most of them stand behind us, advocate for us, and support us as we go about our daily job of teaching. They deserve better than to live in fear of non-reappointment from one June to the next.

7. Fight for us. Tell the state of Florida that teacher computers should be exempt from the forced sleep every 15 minutes. You know why my laptop is inactive during the day when I am working with my students? I AM WORKING WITH MY STUDENTS, not sitting next to my laptop to keep the screen active and displaying the day's lesson!

8. Pay the custodians, cafeteria workers, office clerks, and paraprofessionals well. The school won't run without them. They are essential, which is why every school votes them a share of the A-plus bonus money if a school receives it. $15 an hour is where you should start. If that's good for a fast food worker, we should at least match it.

9. Remove the thousands upon thousands of dollars in book charges you placed upon our accounts when you forced us to accept class sets of textbooks as you didn't buy enough to issue one to every student. That comes out of our retirement money if those books are not removed. Same for the classroom libraries we were forced to take whether we wanted them or not.

Really, how ridiculous is it to insist that a teacher have a library of books for students to read when they finish their work while insisting on bell-to-bell instruction and always having an extension or enrichment activity for students who complete their work early?

(Note: the classroom library is in a state of disuse as we got rid of the media specialists who would issue them every year. But the previous year's allotment of books remain on teachers' accounts.)

How could this happen? Because schools have too few personnel anymore to maintain the inventory systems with integrity. What most often happens is that books are collected, thrown into the storeroom, but no one ever scans them back into the inventory.

10. Here comes the big one: Recognize that the test and punish laws of our state have forced our schools into focusing on the needs of adults: teachers needing a VAM score to avoid dismissal, principals needing a school grade of C or better to avoid reassignment, district leadership who face firing if improvement is not shown quickly enough, a focus on test scores above all else.

How about a big splash event to apologize for allowing students to be test-taking widgets?

Rededicate our schools to serving the needs of students, AND LET THE TESTS BE DAMNED, and this grumpy, old teacher will feel appreciated. Maybe I'll even be willing to sit in the dark and sweat.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Demise of the Co-op

I play this silly game on my tablet, when I am at home (don't salivate, professional standards for education police, I'm not playing when I am on my campus engaged in the professional activities for which I am paid--if you want me, you'll have to try harder), called Township.

The game intrigues me. I have to manage a town and its economy, including farming operations vegetable and animal, factory production using the farming goods and ore from the mine, trade for materials the town does not produce via plane, train, and ship, building community places to attract people, provide housing for the people, provide entertainment like a zoo and amusement park, develop new territory, and fill orders for goods from the townspeople.

It's a lot to manage, lots of variables to balance, and the intricacy is why I am enjoying playing the game.

The game provides the option to join a co-op. Co-op members may help one another through the donation of goods and also may join together to compete in the regatta, a yacht race in which 15 co-ops compete for position and prizes.

I belong to a very competitive co-op, but it was also a supportive co-op. There was only one rule: no freeloading, which meant no one could belong, do nothing in the race, help no one, but collect the same prizes at the end of the race that everyone else worked hard to achieve. As long as a member was making the effort, all was good.

Until this week.

Trends that had begun the previous week began to manifest firmly. Although we choose tasks to complete from a common board (that's how the regatta works--for example, choose to send 10 trains for 130 points), some members began calling for tasks to be reserved for them, although it may take hours before they are ready to start it. Then every member is expected to ask for permission before taking a task, although it is not clear who gives the permission. It seems some members have appointed themselves the arbiters of task distribution. Then it appears that these few members keep the most desirable tasks for themselves and no one else is allowed to have them.

They leave the least desirable tasks for the other members. AND then they complain that these members are not doing their part.

My name was discussed Friday as one who is not keeping up even though the original co-op members know that I can only do one or two tasks during the week because I work, but I complete many tasks on the weekend.

And so a game I play for diversion from the stress of being a teacher, where I have heavy pressure all year long to produce a winning score from every student or else face sanctions, even the loss of my job, has become that job.

If I don't produce a high enough score early enough, I will be kicked out of the co-op. Or lose my job. This week, I cannot tell the difference between the two.

Except that I can. I can leave the co-op or stop playing the game. But teaching is my profession and my passion. I cannot stop doing that.

But ponder the comparison. How the development, the social, emotional, and developmental needs of your child no longer count. All that matters is the score that is produced. Or get the <ahem> out.

Substitute your favorite swear word.

(BTW, I am leaving the co-op at the end of this race.)