Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Crazy Days of May
Remember to Pray for Teachers!!!

Teaching is not what it used to be. When I began teaching, I did my job, attended a few meetings, carried home piles of papers to grade every night and found immense satisfaction when a lesson went as well or better than I had imagined when I planned it.

Now? Well, there's still the immense satisfaction. That hasn't changed. But nearly everything else has changed. Our job is defined by a triangle....The base of the triangle represents 80% of the students. For those 80% .... no wait....for everyone in the classroom, we are to teach all concepts, scaffolding to accommodate individual differences and various levels of ability and past knowledge. We are to provide things like, alternate versions of tests, possibly reading the exam if necessary. Or give only half the homework. Or require a one-paragraph essay rather than a three-paragraph or five-paragraph essay. We might pair the student with a peer who is able to assist. Or the teacher might provide individual instruction to particular students. Some students must be provided with copies of notes if required. Constant assessment must take place in order to determine which students receive which accommodations or modifications. (In middle school, one teacher typically has 100-150 students. This year, it will be 150 at least, maybe more) So for a new batch of 30+ students every hour we must have these sorts of lessons and interventions ready. . . And, for me, I have to remember which of these kids need how much modification or accommodation!!! For someone who struggles to learn all 150 names by Thanksgiving, that is no small task!

With those modification, accommodations and scaffolding of lessons 80% of the students are expected to succeed. Then comes methods of dealing with the 20% who are not progressing at the expected pace.

For those there is additional assessment. One version of which takes place weekly, in class, while all those other modifications and accommodations are occurring. Teachers must do a one-on-one assessment -- it only takes one minute, we are told. Then another very small amount of time to put the scores into a computer which will then spew out scores which will indicate what additional interventions these students will need. Remember this is ONLY 20% of our students -- so with a class of 30, 6 students potentially will require additional interventions to address deficits discovered by the assessment. These may be done by the teacher sometime OUTSIDE of the classroom -- say before school, after school, during our lunch period, or .... or Saturday morning.

Right now we are reviewing these interventions and are required to give input as to the ones we think will work best. Then the powers that be will determine which of these sets of curriculum they will purchase, train us and voila' we're set to take care of that 20%.

Oh, is expected that these interventions will not work for 3-5% of students. . .for whom there will guessed it....more interventions. And don't forget, there are still those students who comprise the 80% for whom we are still planning daily lessons with modifications and accommodations. And grading papers....and, oh, yes. We must also motivate them to do their homework, perform well in class, and become excited about education.

Because....the other side of that learning triangle comprises a behavioral triangle. Again, 80% of the students do well with the usual procedures and instructions; there's the 15% who needs additional programs and procedures to behave in class; and the 5% for whom individual behavior plans must be devised and followed. Some song, different verse.

So while we are modifying and accommodating content for one set of student, there are the other 6 kids or so who can be expected to push behavior limits beyond acceptable while we are busy with the learning difficulties of the other 6 . . . and the 80% will of course on task as the teacher is busy with such tasks.

These are 13-14 year olds!!! Hello!!! Push behavior limits is what they do every waking moment just for entertainment!!!

So...with the classroom requiring 150% energy and concentration every moment students are there....we have committees and training and more committees and more training to deal with these "new" methods.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the newspapers are publishing front page articles about how teachers are overpaid, have life easy and need to take pay cuts. Sigh!!

Sigh!! It's just too much to contemplate.

One thing I do know. I'm in teaching because I do love it...I'm good at it. So this next year, I will attend . . . how many meetings??? Well, this year I'm on two district-level committees (2 meetings per month), co-chair of one school-level committee (1-2 meetings per month;5-6 days of training this year), member of another school-level committee (1 meeting per month), on this new intervention committee (1 meeting per month, 4 trainings this year) and on one committee with the ETA (one day and one meeting this year). And...that's about average for the profession.

I'm amazed that young people even want to join the profession! But they do.

Because??? Teaching isn't a job, it's a calling. It does seem like the powers that be could provide a bit more support instead of making it more difficult.

But there is one Power that I know I can depend on. So, this year when you hear someone begin to harangue teachers or the educational system, say a prayer. Pray for teachers; pray for administrators; pray for public officials. The educational system needs help and at this point, I think the only help available is DIVINE!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rally Day
Springfield, Illinois

So today I dabbled my toes in the sea of American politics. I weighed the issues and decided it was important enough for me to at least get acquainted with the process. Accompanied by 150 teachers from our district and thousands of others statewide, we marched, listened to speeches and talked to legislators. Oh, we also ate hot dogs. What's a political rally without hot dogs?

For those whose media outlets were blasting teachers and screaming about teachers wanting higher taxes, please read on.

For the first time in my life, I was here in a legislator's office with a group of colleagues and was able to explain my concerns about education. He listened politely.

It is true that 20,000 teachers statewide have been RIFed (Notified that will not be employed due to Reduction In Force). Would we like to see these young promising educators keep their jobs? Certainly! AND...we'd like to see them remain in Illinois as a resource to the children of our state rather than migrate to the surrounding states where the prospects are less bleak.

But the bottom line is.... without an educated electorate, democracy is doomed to failure. I am teaching because I believe in the value of education, and I believe in democracy. Students should leave our schools able to read, write and do arithmetic. They also need critical thinking skills in order to listen to candidates and decide for whom to vote. They need the skills to understand the system and run for office themselves someday. They need the confidence to talk to legislators and government officials, to express themselves clearly and with purpose.
We neglect the education of our nation's children at our peril. This state must do something to fund education and to fund it more equitably for all children. It means responsible spending and a responsible budget. The message was: SOS (Save Our Schools!)

And we had a great time with friends...and making new friends. The day gave us lots of time to share ideas and have fun!Five of the six representatives from Ellis. The other was meeting with a Representative at the time.
Oh here she is...on the bus!!! Great day!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

EASTER, 2010
(Those few pictures I remembered to take and for which I could locate the camera!)

Three 6-foot tables seated the 20 guests. Meal was buffet style.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Such an interesting day. It was beautiful, sunny, warm. A marvel here in Northern Illinois at the beginning of April. I was setting up for a dinner on Sunday for extended family, with eighteen guests. :-)

I was looking for centerpieces for three table of six. and completion pieces for my place settings...I did the discount housewares round, the craft stores, the department stores and then for the glass pieces for some floating candles, the community thrift store. This drifting in and out of varied cultures reminded me of some reading I've been doing on Native Americans.

I plan to start next year with a unit on Native American stories and poetry, even cave painting to coordinate with the American History class they're taking. Native American culture always fascinated me. My great-great grandmother was from the Cherokee tribe. So I am Indian. But I don't have the culture, at all.

Tribes lived as one family, happy or not. They shared food and the necessities of life. An Indian wouldn't dream of eating when his neighbor had none. When a child was given a toy, say a doll, the child played with the toy until they tired of it. Then she passed it on to another child who kept it as long as she was interested. So a doll might be in the hands of 2 or 3 little girls in the course of a year. Amazing.

At at each place, I looked around me at the abundant "things" we enjoy and thought of the immense selfishness which pervades us-- I mean, me! And I'm still thinking. I really need to get rid of some "things", including attitudes and entitlements. I don't know what I'm doing yet. I just know that God is nudging me.

God, thank you for that little voice that speaks to me. Thank you for nudging me to examine values and attitudes even in the midst of shopping!! Let me have "ears to hear!" Amen!!

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