Wondering

Why do kids so easily give up on themselves and their education? Why don’t they recognize the value of an education?

Why do kids insist on embarrassing their parents with their behavior. (My unwritten rule being “Never embarrass yourself, your parent, your teacher of your principal.)

Why do kids want to act in ways that are contrary to their upbringing?

Give me your answers in the comments.

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Evaluation

Ok…not much to say today. Not as interesting a day as I would have liked in some ways, but more interesting than I like in others. I got my evaluation today. It looks like I won’t be forced into retirement over it. Probably won’t have to worry about TINA bothering me either. (That’s a teacher inside joke.) So, since I could retire, but I don’t want to. Since it doesn’t look like I’ll have to retire – I guess that this blog will keep on going after this year. Now, if only the evaluations on this blog were as nice to me as my evaluation as a teacher. 😉

Parent University

Tonight was Parent University night at the High School that defines our Vertical Team. There are refreshments, a lot of speakers and a lot of exhibitors around the gym and the cafeteria at the school. Last year our school had a table. This year we didn’t. No matter – I still got to see a lot of my students. I actually hung out with my wife this year as her college had a number of tables to encourage kids to consider college. It’s such a great idea to be talking to kids as young as kindergarten about college. If they wait until high school to think about maybe going, it may be too difficult to get mind and grades in gear. When they start young with that expectation, it opens more doors for them.

I got to meet the Dean of Arts and Sciences. As we talked, we began seeing how we could work together. She is over a program that has as part of its goals working at the elementary and middle school level. Our school has a unique affiliation with this program. (STEM) So now we are making plans to work together on some projects.

My wife teaches Sign Language and Interpreting. Her department also includes the cosmetology department. Her department chair came in carrying two dummy heads use to practice work on hair and make-up. I told her that classes in her department could help people get ahead. My wife must have warned her about me; she ignored me. Later I had an idea. You can see it in the picture below. I started to take the picture just as a student from one of the classes that doesn’t know that I can smile walked by. He’s one of the good kids in the class. He broke out laughing, along with his mother. He just couldn’t imagine me smiling, let alone being silly like that. We talked about a class that has changed and now knows that I can smile and laugh. I told him that the kids say that they enjoy class much more now. Funny thing…when behavior improves, the teacher can do more interesting and fun things!

three heads

Three heads

The Agony and The Ecstasy

Great title, right? I could say that I stayed up all night thinking of that one, but some of you might google this and find out I stole it from the Charleton Heston/Rex Harrison movie. But today was one of those days. Things were going good. Then, it was time for one of the classes that I struggle with. Today was that last day of the six weeks to get work turned in and I was trying to get some things done so that kids might be able to pass. Then it happened. A fire drill. I couldn’t believe it. A freaking fire drill on the last day of the six weeks. I can’t tell you how upset and angry I was. When kids are right on the bubble, they need every bit of help we can give them…and then a fire drill comes along and takes that chance away from them. The real irony of the story is that while we were walking out to the assembly area – someone in the neighborhood needed an ambulance. So the kids heard the ambulance and the fire truck roaring down the street and were sure that the school was on fire.

That was the agony. The ecstasy involves one of the kids that came to mind during the song “Worn” that I noted in the post Reversal.   This past week that child has done an amazing reversal and, while not perfect, his behavior has improved and his work ethic was great. I made a point of telling him how proud I was of him. I then made sure that the AP who has been working with him knew about his good behavior and his work. That class has been very good recently and I have enjoyed the change.

Two six weeks period are now finished. That’s one-third of the year finished. We still have so much to learn. I’m getting ready to hit it hard again for one week…and then Thanksgiving week.

Good Times

So tonight I want to be positive. Today was an exciting day at school. Our 8th graders had a chance to hear from BernNadette Stanis. She was in town for another function and she contacted our school to see if she could speak. WOW! Were we honored! If you don’t know her, she was Thelma from Good Times. Ok, I’ll admit. I didn’t watch Good Times. When I checked the series out it was from 1974 – 1979. Think Senior year (ok, last half of Junior year) in High School to College and beginning of married life. (We did not have a TV by choice for about 5 years.)

That being said, the fact that she chose to speak on our campus was a great encouragement. Looking at her biography, it looks like her life story was exactly what our kids need to hear. While I could not be there, since I don’t teach 8th graders, I heard that she was amazing. The kids were fully engaged and the Assistant Principal told me that she did a great job. She does have some kind of a new project coming out, apparently, and it looks like a good one. Knowing something of the reality in her new project (deliberately not named so you have to go there to find out about it) I’m glad to see that issue being addressed.

So, thanks Ms. Stanis for visiting our school and inspiring our kids. We were very blessed to have you here.

Surprise Rant

So through a strange series of events, I found myself going out to eat a late supper/snack with my wonderful wife at a local fast food joint. We were talking about our day and work and things. Then, they brought me out the wrong item. I thought we might have communicated it wrong because the price was different from what I ordered. (They charged $.20 more, but I didn’t make a stink about that.) But I did ask for them to get me what I ordered. They told me that it rang up right. (So why advertise it for $.20 less than you charge, eh?)

Then while my wife was eating her food, which came out right, I suddenly started ranting. I was telling her that one of the things we have to do as a result of our status and having the state babysitter (I think the official name is “PSP”) is subject specific vocabulary. As I was talking about that, all of the sudden I started ranting. I complained that while it was subject specific, I never knew if it was on topic with the subject in question. All I had was a list of words with no direction from the subject area folks. I complained that I had to switch what I was doing where I had kids writing on various topics at the beginning of class and doing math work as exit drills that would make them think to simplistic vocabulary (and I gave a few examples of the words from our list noting that the words I would like to give for vocabulary were far more mind-stretching) and reflective writing (which is basically good) at the end. I pounded the table. The clerk was almost afraid to give me my food.

I have no quarrel with the idea that we need to make some changes in the way we teach. I have no quarrel with the idea that electives need to help support the core classes. My quibble is that the vocabulary that is brought out from my unit is far more challenging than the vocabulary I am being forced to do. I am missing time challenging the kids to think because I’m forced to follow a cookie cutter approach to teaching that stifles excellence and panders to achieving mediocrity as long as everyone does it. 10 – 15 minutes taken away from challenging writing and math so that we can deal with minor stuff…it’s no wonder I can’t get through my curriculum at the right pace…..

Open Doors

Somewhere in the Bible it talks about an open door that can’t be shut. (Yes, I know it’s in Revelation. Just play along here.) That was part of the problem yesterday and today: open doors that would not lock. The wood holding the door jamb began rotting out recently and yesterday, the door jamb fell out. Our chief custodian did a quick and dirty repair to provide security overnight. The real repairs were supposed to happen in the morning on Tuesday. By 1:15, they hadn’t come and the earlier repair work was no longer holding.

I talked to our Principal’s secretary who called downtown. By 1:30 the repair crew was there. They said it was worse than they thought and they would do a makeshift repair while doing major repairs in the morning. I don’t know what they were expecting when we told them it was real bad….

They did fix another issue with the door, and I’m grateful for that.

We just have an old building. It has lots of repair issues. Kids come to our school from a completely new and up-to-date elementary school. They will leave and go to a refurbished high school. Our middle school was built in the 50’s and aside from some wiring and retasking of rooms, not much has been done to upgrade them. My door locks will be the first of many problems that will happen because the buildings are old. There seems to be a disparity regarding upkeep of our buildings and money spent on our school. It’s time to check things out and see just where the money is in the district and how it’s allocated. For years the excuse is that schools like ours are “Title 1” and have all kinds of money. Now, more and more schools in the district are Title 1 and the money doesn’t go as far when it’s split up in more places. It’s time for some to stop with the flip answers and take the time to find out just what is happening. It’s pretty sad when a door that should be part of one of the most secure rooms on campus can’t be shut and locked because the wood is rotting out and the door can be pulled open when locked.

Now, if I could just find open doors for all of my students…..