ted & pamela

Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

We Don’t Need No Education…

Monday, February 1st, 2010

The state of education in this state is scary. (You could probably insert any state in place of ‘this state’…)

Our school district alone is going millions of dollars in the hole next year, and the state is likely to approve an even bleaker budget for the year, if it manages to approve one at all.

Last school year, all the employees in our entire district agreed to take 2 furlough days to minimize the number of layoffs we would face and the impact the spending cuts would have on our students.  Even so, hundreds of teachers received a pink slip in March and a second pink slip over the summer, with most of them ultimately managing to keep their jobs although the state budget didn’t pass until November.

Next year, we are looking at a potential salary freeze, class size increases of 50% or more (to over 40 students per class), and hundreds of actual layoffs–accounting for over 10% of the entire district staff.  To forestall this, our local unit is attempting to bargain with the district to use the federal money that it currently has in reserves to keep teachers on the payroll and class sizes down, by instead asking us to vote tomorrow to offer to increase our instructional minutes each week for free, accept class size increases of 1-2 students per class at the secondary level (resulting in 10-15 layoffs instead of hundreds), and taking anywhere from 5-11 furlough days — with the first 5 being actual instructional days. [The reason given for this is that if we continue to take furloughs on non-instructional days as we did last year, no one knows–and no one cares, but if we keep the students home for 5 days, the problem becomes more greatly known.]  If we take all 11 furloughs, we’ll face a 6% salary reduction–in case we were currently getting paid too much, or something.  Either way, we’re being asked to vote on a choice of Bad or a choice of Bad.  My district is surrounded by wealthier districts, in wealthier neighborhoods with large incomes from property taxes–and even these districts are looking at increasing class sizes, taking furlough days, etc., indicating that the problem is widespread.

My own job is most likely not threatened, as they can’t layoff special education teachers without risking being out of compliance with the law that requires a special education program for learning disabled students, but my students are threatened, as well as my pay.

The bottom-line question is this: why is education so poorly valued in America?  Why must we look at decreasing instructional days when what we really need to do is increase them?  Why must we look at decreasing staff when what students would actually benefit from is more personalized instruction?  For all that the public complains about how little Americans know, and for all the government talks about how important it is that all students learn–I don’t see anyone putting their money where their mouth is. (Except for teachers, whom I see constantly sacrificing and taking pay cuts and spending their salary on their classroom so that their students will feel the effects of the budget crisis that much less.)

And this year’s students will be next year’s voters… and next year’s politicians.

“…Teachers! Leave those kids alone!”

Tales of a Second-Year Teacher, Part I

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I’m almost 1/6 through my second year of teaching now. I’ve been meaning to make a post since Week 1, but here it is Week 6 already… and I finally have a few minutes to spare between finishing my work for the night and falling asleep!

I’m teaching 5 classes this year; 3 periods of SDC English and 2 periods of Reading Intervention. The first five of my classes wow me, every day. Either I’ve done a much better job of establishing norms and routines, or I’ve got a much better group of kids this year, or both. The incoming freshmen are awesome–not only are they well-behaved, but hard-working as well, although their skills are very low.

It is only my last period of the day that continuously leaves me with a headache. It has one aggressive, obnoxious, antagonistic girl, one girl easily brought to tears, one girl enthusiastic but often overly so, and two boys who like to take jabs at each other. All in all, the class could be a lot of fun were it not for the very first girl, who drives me, my aid, and all the other students crazy each day until she is asked to leave. Apparently it’s that way in ALL of her classes; I’ve been trying to collaborate with her other teachers to figure out what’s up with her.

I’ve revamped all of my systems in my classroom this year, starting with the layout of my room itself! Thanks to the help of multiple others, I managed to completely flip my room front to back over the summer, such that both the door and the super-annoyingly-loud air unit are now in the back of the room; my room was made smaller with some portable walls thanks to Peter; I added a conference table; my desk is no longer within arm’s reach of students; and my walls look way cooler. I also completely remade my class procedures and systems to work better. I like.

I have one night a week of graduate courses still; the class is now 5 hours long. Yay. I have danced exactly one day since school started. Super yay. But I’m making it to bed between 12 and 1 regularly, which is still sucky but a huge improvement over last year. This is good, considering I teach first period this year instead of starting with second and thus wake up an hour and a half earlier. So yeah, still tired. This after-school part is the part I like least about my job. Good thing I have a capable TA always ready by my side at night to help out. 🙂

I had a difficult student compliment me a few days ago. He’s usually a bit of a pain, as he can’t sit still and focus to save his soul and would rather rap, dance, or make comments to other students. But after I’d been working on getting him to produce some work, he told me that what he liked about me was that I’d never give up on trying to help him–and he’s been diligently focusing on his work ever since. I hope this new trend of his continues! I also had a new student give me an apple the other day and tell me today that I was a good teacher–usually my kids are quite vocal about voicing the opposite sentiment.

I’ve now written a super-long post to make up for the last 5 weeks of no updates… whoops! Here’s to hoping that problems will be resolved rather than created throughout the rest of my second year.

Yay for Cars, Part II

Monday, June 1st, 2009

My car got stolen last Wednesday.

By a 15-year-old student of mine.

He apparently took my keys from my purse, cut class, and went on a joyride all over town for several hours with 2 of his friends without me knowing, before getting pulled over by a very astute sheriff.  I got a phone call during my last class of the day saying “a sheriff is here about your car,” to which I responded, “Why, what’s wrong with it?”

On top of it, the kid removed the house keys from my key ring and threw them randomly around campus over fences and into dumpsters. One was never recovered.

I’m not sure whether to feel betrayed and outraged that he would do such a thing or to feel like an idiot for not noticing my keys getting stolen from my purse…

This concludes what is hopefully the final installment of “Tales from a First-Year Teacher”…  finals end next Thursday.