Friday, January 13, 2017

Why do I teach 2017 edition

I am in my 15th year of teaching special education. It was not my first career path. I started college thinking I was going to be an aeronautical engineer. By the end, I earned a degree in Political Science with a minor in US History and desire to be a history teacher. I went to a credential program and earned a social studies credential. I spent 5 years in the tech industry after becoming disillusioned with student teaching and found what I thought was going to be my career path, purchasing. Then the first dot com bust happened. I needed to pay rent and couldn't find a job. I, by chance, had a valid teaching credential and began the process of becoming a substitute teacher. I could ride it out for a few months. I would find a job by summer.

I was called in the afternoon for a sub job. It would be a two week gig in special education. Evidently, I was not the first call, 2nd, 3rd. No one wanted it. I was nervous about doing it myself. But it was for two weeks and would pay rent. I went in to class the first day and realized I was an idiot for being afraid. My youngest brother was in special ed because he had a reading deficit. I had experience with this situation. I loved the smaller class and the connection it gained. I also had the privilege to go to the VA hospital with the students as they gained work experience in the afternoons. I was hooked on education again but it was special education.

I would have to go to school again. Was I sure this is the path I wanted to take? I had been coaching and had a connection to a school. I got a job as an instructional aide in special education classroom. I would use this to determine if I really wanted to get into the profession. I worked with a wonderful teacher and was hooked. I applied to a credential program and got a job in special education.

It was bliss for the first few years. Then change came hard and fast in terms of laws governing education. But, I made it through. Then came the shifting demands of the profession and the adversarial relationships between parents, government, schools, and teachers. Then came the shifts in school personnel. Then came declining enrollment. Then came changes to job description. It was a roller coaster. I also was dealing with personal issues.

I had two really bad years of teaching. I was going through the motions and not enjoying my job. I did the minimum. I was at my nadir. I knew I needed a change. I quit coaching basketball. I asked to teach freshman again. It worked. I had never been so happy. The freshmen brought such an innocence and eagerness that i could not help but be reinvigorated. We had a blast and stretched them further than they thought they could go. They accepted obstacles as part of the path.

I am feeling good about education and teaching again. I am having fun. My students are having fun. We laugh. We cry. We share difficulties but trust we are in it together.

So why do I teach in light of the difficulties? I teach because I want to see kids taste success. I have had students who have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, management. I have had students who still work at Target and Safeway. But they all contribute to society. I teach because of the connection. I teach because it is ok to cry when things are tough. I teach because I have learned you will hear me now but listen to me later. I teach because I know I make a difference. I had to relearn that lesson. Fortunately, I am in education and get lessons too!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Diversity and the new segregation

When I was growing up, I do not recall anyone saying I want to send my child to a school with more diversity. I tended to be the diversity. I was generally the only minority or one of the few in my my classes. I remember being told I do not want to take a home economics course because I would be the only male in the class. I wanted to take it because I wanted to sew, knit, and cook. I also remember being told that I really do not want to take Algebra in the 8th grade because it will be hard. It was. I got a C the first semester. Then I got an A the second.

I have been a teacher for 15 years. I have seen demographics change a lot where I live and work. I hear people say they want more diversity in their school. It tends to be code word for more Caucasians. I do not hear them clamoring for more Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans. It is there are too many Asian Americans and not enough Caucasians. I had a person explain to me they wish there child went to another school in their district because the other is more diverse. Well the one they are at is 58% with the dominant race. The other school is 70% with its dominant race. How is the second more diverse? Well that 70% is white and the 58% is Asian.

School choice? Do you really have school choice? If you have money, you do. The whole voucher thing is fake. Is it trying to send the kids to the more "diverse" school. I am guessing yes.

I think any parent who loves their child would want to send their student to a best school possible. Best school possible will also consider other factors. How is a family with low socioeconomic status get their child to the school outside of their attendance area? It is hard. I took a city bus. I spent hours traveling. Was it worth it? For me, no, I did not get a better "education." I was around more Caucasians though. The school did not have really rigorous classes that I could have taken at the closer school.

It takes a lot to get a student to a school outside of their attendance area and only those with the flexibility to do so will. It could be flex work schedule, multiple cars, etc. Disregarding the quality of the student leaving one school for another, you will still make the fled school worse. Most schools get revenue based on population. With a smaller population, the school gets fewer resources. So, it could lose sections, extracurricular activities, etc.

The real concept is segregation not school choice.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Money Solves All That Ails Education

I am dancing for the state. I am paying out a big chunk of my income and I am not saving anything and actually dipping into my savings to pay for everything. In the end, it will all be ok. I will get a huge raise because I will move two columns over on the salary scale. I can save next year if I make it. I have completed course 7 of 9. It was the most difficult of the courses I have taken and yet somehow the easiest. It was brought up to me that I care way too much about these classes. So much for the mantra B is good enough for me. I earned 97% in my latest course. I got a D on a quiz and lost 4 points, the only points I lost in the course.

I really worked hard on the assignments for the course. I should have known better. I put a lot of effort into the first assignment and saw some quality projects done by others. I struggled with the second major assignment. I did the best I could was frustrated with it and turned it in. I got a perfect score on it. I was shocked. The next assignment was so vague it was not even funny. The instructor gave us models to use and they were all different. I did not know what direction to go in. I synthesized and added more to it. I would say I spent a good 10 solid hours on it. Of course, I spent more on it but I am easily distracted and that does not count. I looked at what others submitted and I was horribly disappointed. I felt they turned in crap but based on the comments from the instructor; I felt they earned great grades on them. My project was at least 33% larger than the others. I was done with the course. I stressed myself and have been dealing with acid reflux all week and a stiff neck. I did the math and if I did ok on the last quiz I could not do the final paper and still get a B in the course. Unfortunately, all coursework is required.

I did the paper. It was not very good. I did not put any effort into it. I got an A. It is a joke. Ok, I put in some effort. It was not my A game. I supposed I could have earned a B on it. I am just paying through the nose for my credential. I only have $2400 more to go. I will have April – July to save a little money. It will not be enough. Summer school here I come! Give me your paycheck and send me on my merry way.

I do not even know the names of the courses I am taking. I just know the numbers.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why Do I teach?

I aks myself that question and the answer is getting worse and worse. I do not think I want to teach anymore. I am so frustrated and burnt by the system. Is it worth it anymore.

Friday, April 27, 2007

let's freak out about everything

i remember when i used to write poetry. i am not great, good, or even ok. i am a hack. but it was a form that i could express myself. i used to share it with people. then people said my poems were sexist and not inclusive. i was talking about myself, why would it not be talking about a male?!@ it was not meant to be universal it was about me: my life, my troubles, love, etc! so i wrote genderless poetry that said nothing. i stopped writing poetry. plus my muse broke my heart and after the initial poems in red there was nothing more to say.

now, i am reading about people getting upset and even arrested for writing violent literature. i understand there was a very sad and upsetting series of events at Viginia Tech. There is a lot of sadness stemming from that event. but we are the knee jerk society. let us freak out about everything.

violent writing is bad
playing violent video games is bad
watching violent movies is bad
listening to violent music is bad
shooting and owning guns is bad
being alive is bad

am i desensitized?

i do all of the above. i felt a sadness. i have committed no murders. no felonies. i a pretty normal person. i love, i feel compassion. i do not freak out about everything.

i have lived in the bad neighborhoods. i had to move once the owner of the house was killed. i never told my mom where i lived because she would have been upset and given me money to live elsewhere. it was not bad and i had no problems there. i was nice and the people i lived with were fun too.

i think we are sensitive in another way. we have become the tooth that has enjoyed too many sweets and now cannot stand drinking anything too hot or too cold or too acidic. all we can drink is room temperature water. we are not desensitized. we care too damn much about nothing. there are no degrees it is all on or all off. let us fire our Imus's because he is white and male not because he actually did something wrong. hell plenty of people have said similar things and are still popular: al sharpton, ann coulter, rush limbaugh, me?

if someone says something to be there is usually a rebuke and i move on. if there is a pattern then their is a significant retribution. only when it becomes abuse do i seek something more. one incident is not the end of the world. but let us burn them anyway.

keep writing the mindless violence. i will watch it. i need to turn off my mind to the real crap out there because that affects me. not the mindless violence or rants that seem to be all that are cared about. what is the real problem? find that and fix it.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


As with most things in life it is all about connections. Evidently, I do not have good ones. I am a little Pollyanna in thinking that people should recognize talent. Well, I do.

I am not cut out to be a Varsity head coach. I am fine as a FS coach. I can do well there. The expectations are low and I can usually outcoach the other guy if it comes down to it. Talent is usually what gets in the way.

But, this is not my rant. My rant is about jerk coaches who fill that ranks. Many of these people were solid basketball players in their day. I was never a good player. I am still not a good player. I do know the game. Maybe that helps put my ego in perspective because when I look at my players, I know they are all better players than I.

The coaching field is filled with this guys and they are real jerks. They think of themselves a God's gift to coaching. They berate players and often teach people how to cheat. I am all for technique and love of the game. I do not mean to be holier than thou. I too have my demons. I had several blow ups during the season including one really bad one. I had to do damage control and a self assessment. I was wrong. I belittle my team and berated them. I did some dumb coaching things that night. A player and a parent called me on it and I had to admit I was wrong. I even sent a note to all the parents and apologized. I had a team meeting and did the same thing. I think that incident went a long way towards the success we had for the rest of the season. We were 2-2 in league at that point. We ended up 8-4. Thus we went 6-2 down the stretch and we had six of those games sans our best player who was pulled up to Varsity. Thus I am not a saint either.

But I do not run up scores. I do not leave my starter in the whole game if we are running over a team. I do not press all game. I take the dogs off. It annoys me when coaches say that they are not going to stop coaching when they are up by a lot as their justification for what they are doing. I am still coaching too; I am just doing it with my lesser players. I try to use it as teaching time. I try to not be too critical of them as well. I should know they are my lesser players. I am not the best. I did have a playing crisis and I did point out how my lesser players got crushed when I put them on the court. It ended the crisis but it was pretty damn mean. It was just reality but it is hard when you slap it with them instead of letting them come to their own conclusions.

Well we came in second place in league. I was pretty happy. But, the post season league meeting was not fun. We did not get the respect we deserved as the second place team. The 4th place team was more honored than we were. No one understood why I was upset. They we all for themselves and kept using the same arguments and kept belittling my team. If they were that much better then they should have swept us or figured out how to beat the teams we swept and they did not. No on figured out how to beat the league champion. I was still angry and upset and thinking about it three days later.

I am pretty sure that I am not going to coach at my current school again this year. I was definite a month ago. Then I started talking to people and they caused me to waver. I think I am getting over it. I just cannot stand the head coach. He is still living in high school and how great he was. Ok, maybe part of that is jealousy because I had no high school career. But, he graduated 35 years ago. Maybe he should get over it. He has so much knowledge in his head. I am in awe of it. But, I have seen him coach for a year and he cannot translate it to the kids. He loses his audience and hence his team does not get better. I am not a great coach. I will never be a great coach. I will not be a good varsity coach. I am just going to be a decent FS coach. I am just not going to do it for a while.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NCLB Again

I am all for teacher accountability. But measuring how well a teacher does by looking at one test a year is not the way to do it. There are many problems with this system.

1. The bad day problem: Most of us watch sports. There are days when you just excel and then they are days when you can do nothing. We never know what day we are going to get even if we do the right things like eating a good breakfast and getting enough sleep. The test is really just a snapshot of a day. We have all taken bad and good pictures. Sometimes it is the person behind the camera, sometimes it is the person in front of the camera.

2. The incentive problem: There is no incentive for the student to do well or even try on the test. There are no repercussions for them if they do not do well. Most students have pride and want to do well on it. Many students in my population do not like the test. They tests make them feel "stupid." (Believe me I have heard this refrain many times. They have stopped trying to take the test. Some speed through it as fast as they can. Some make patterns. Some just randomize answers. Some try for a while til they get frustrated. Some try the entire time. I have tried food bribes and other incentives for them to try the entire exam. Sometimes it is successful; most times it is not. In the big picture, i do not think this is a major of serious problem but in my population I think it is.

3. Required Test: The students are not required to take the test. Parent have the option of having their kids not take the test. This could lead to all sort of problems should the test me the marker of teacher performance.

4. Teaching to the Test: There are definitely strategies to taking a multiple choice test. I loved math tests. I really enjoyed the fact that most problems did not require me to actually complete the problem. I could find the answer based on those given by doing a little work. I also know what type of answers they would provide. They always give an answers that will fit the common mistake such as a negative answer when the answer should be positive. Eliminate those and your chances go from 20% to at least 25%. Find another simple thing to eliminate before you do any work and your odds keep getting better. Where was the academic value in what that I just gave you?

5. One Size Fits All test: Sure they are standardized. But it just means it fits most. So you can get most people in it but there will be many that it does not fit well. There is a reason why we have so many choices in our life because we all like and are comfortable with different things. My one size fits all beanie is a little short and does not cover my ears all the way. Options on testing is the way to go. Mastery of knowledge can be expressed in many ways. To force us to use only one is not the way to go.

I am tired of this rant but I am sure I could find more problems with this method of measuring teacher progress. How about the student who does not like the teacher and intentionally tanks to get back at the teacher. Hmm, I like that one. I wonder if I can use it for ill actions.