Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Rant, A Rave and a Wave

A Rant.

This is a difficult time for me.  In most states there is a law that says by a certain date in the spring that all teachers not being retained for the next coming year must be given lay-off notices.  It is a hard time in the teachers room as those that have received a "pink slip" tell there follow colleagues.  Those that didn't get them feel guilty as well as deep sigh of relief.  "I can teach another year."  

In my state, the state of Washington, there are those that are gearing up to support a change in the laws to allow charter schools.  Even though much of the research about charter schools seems to show that there is little difference between regular schools and the charter schools, this state will debate the problem once more and I suspect the charter school advocates will be successful.  My major problem with charter schools is that they basically get to pick and choose their students.  I think this does make a difference in the outcome of the learning in a school.  

One of the underlying philosophies of charter schools is to get rid of those that are a problem to the school.  Get rid of those who have learning problems, get rid of those that come to school hungry, get rid of those that have a poor learning record.  You've sweeten the pot and hopefully more learning can take place.  Charter schools are trying to overcome societal problems.  

I remember quite clearly an older and wiser teacher in the school where I was first teaching fifth grade tell me not to erase a student's name in my grade book because they were moving--they could possibly return.  In my idealistic mind at that time though why would they return, they were going to Oregon to live with the grandparents or to Alabama to look for a new job.  But my mentor was correct, a number of those students leaving would return to the classroom and I would have the chore of trying to bring them up to date.  Some who had left had not been enrolled in another school, some had but the change in schools had slowed them down.  

Schools cannot solve the woes of society.  If we have families moving here and there we can only teach the child or the young adult when they are in our classrooms.  But perhaps there is a new dawn coming.  I'm beginning to day dream about the time that some students will stay connected through the use of technology.  Wouldn't that be something?  

But back to the beginning of this blog--I'm sad that so many teachers are getting released, fired from their position.  In one article that I read recently, it said that some teachers are still teaching for free even though they were released.  I'm not surprised.  Teachers have to teach.  But I don't think a lot of them will be doing it.

My other part of this rant is how many people are telling teachers how they are to teach who have never been in the classroom.  This galls me.  A number of articles in this state have been written about the "new" teacher evaluation forms and methods.  I can only hope that these new methods of evaluation do not include many tests for students.  If so, we will be back teaching to the test and not teaching.  

However, I DO believe that parents though the use of school boards OUGHT to set the curriculum.   What is to be learned ought to be the provision of the parents.  But how to teach should be the teacher's domain.  

I still remember one of the great assistant superintendents in Seattle who told me a wise thing.  "A disadvantaged child is ANY child that is taught something in the schools that is not reinforced at home and is taught something at home that is not reinforced at school."  So true.  Keep this in mind while you read in the coming weeks of articles telling you how the new charter schools are going to be and how more effective teachers will be with the new evaluation procedures.  I wonder if those teachers who are teaching for free are going to be evaluated.  I wonder....

A Rave

I had intended to title this blog, "Teaching an old dog new tricks," but it was limiting.  Let me start at the beginning which is complex.  When I retired some years ago as was my style I read books and research reports about those that retire.  Who retires and dies shortly afterwards, who retires and enjoys the golden age of their lives, who retires and continues to make a contribution to society.  Fascinating questions of philosophy arose that i got to study and think about.  What is a good quality of life at this stage?  What is a "good" September of our lives?

Now most retirements are broken down into three parts, simplified they are the Go-Go stage, the Slow-Go State and the No-Go stage.  In other words, the first part of retirement is doing, going on a cruise, visiting family and friends, much activity.  The second stage is the Slow-go stage where a couple stays more at home except during holidays and summers and finally the no-go stage where you reside in a facility that takes care of you to different degrees.  If you have good advice you plan you resources such as money to go along with these three stages.  

But as I read the books there was something else I noticed.  Although all the books encouraged exercise in retirement, a few suggested mental activities as well using the travel as a mental exercise.  However, I noted that those that seemed to have a quality retirement as well as an extended life seem to me to be those that used their brains.  Writers, artist, musicians, and thinkers in general seem to have the golden years in their grasp.  Those that worked on assembly lines and then retired seem to leave this world more earlier then others.  So i took note.

This blog was one way I could continue my philosophical thoughts about teaching and about teachers I have known.  I have enjoyed for the most part my blogging about education and the classroom.  Unfortunately during the past decade this nation for the most part has turned on its teachers.  "Get rid of the bad teachers" has become a rallying cry.  To this day, I doubt if I would ever recognize a "bad" teacher.  Misplaced ones, ones overworked, ones without the resources but no just "bad" ones.  I have stated in the past that most people who are poor teachers do not stay in the profession.  A person doesn't want to do something that is unpleasant--so they leave to do other work.  

So I have resolved to stay positive about this profession.  It is difficult at times but every so often a gem comes along.  Did you read recently about the young high school student that was put into jail for twenty-four hours as punishment for missing school.....ALTHOUGH, she was an "A" student, taking college level courses in high school and working TWO jobs to support herself and two siblings.  She would fall asleep because she was so tired and miss school.  Actually what would really happen is that they take attendance in the morning first period and she would come to school after attendance was taken.  She was considered absent even though she was in school.  And the judge threw her into jail.  Thanks to modern technology and the web in all its faces, the young girl's record has been cleared and a large amount of money has been donated for her use.  

I remember a case like this right here in Bellingham (WA).  I was observing a student teacher and had wandered into the library--I liked the librarian who I thought was an excellent teacher.  She was strict but really had the kids learning at heart.   However, one day I noticed that she had a young high school girl sleeping, head down on the table in the workroom (window into the library).  So I inquired about this.  This was not usual behavior allowed in the library.  My librarian teacher told me that this girl had a job, rented an apartment, paid all her own bills because her parents fought all the time and abused the two kids.  So she left.  But my librarian friend had noted all this and had taken her under her wing so to speak.  I found out from others that the librarian also gave her money so she could get new clothes and still have a life in the school like dances and plays.  Someone in Huston should have done that for the girl thrown into jail.  We have a sappy society at times, don't we.

I guess my point for the rave is that there are teachers and teachers who are still going on teaching students.  Regardless of what is happening in our society there will be always teachers who want kids to learn.  They will be grading papers on Sunday getting them ready to turn back to the students on Monday.  I can't think of a bunch of professionals who give their all all of the time like teachers.  A wave of my hand as the school year ends and they get to sleep in once again.  I hope those that got a pink slip will be rehired in the fall.  Many will.  Thanks all, for a great year.

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