Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Keep schools closed ( for now)

I am concerned with the latest “semi push” to open schools. Yes, there are emotional and economic concerns that should be part of this discussion. However, the ultimate safety of children, teachers, and other staff members must trump ( sorry about how that word has been ruined) all others.

Until there is a vaccine, an effective treatment, or even instantaneous testing, there will always be a risk. The question that seems to be morphing is, just what percentage of casualties to this virus are we willing to accept? I say 0%.

It is looking like we may have a vaccine or other treatment by the beginning of next year. Until then, keep schools closed. Look for alternative ways to meet the emotional needs of students, financially assist those who must stay home to care for their children, provide broadband and equipment to those who need it.

Look, I am no lover of remote instruction. I hate it, it does not work. What it does do though, is let us continue to tread water until we can swim.

As this pandemic continues to worsen, let’s not lose sight that this discussion has turned into yet another distraction to our national crisis.

Our Fork in the Road

We all know that we have “red” and “blue” states. We also have states competing with each other for needed supplies. We have armed protesters trying to intimidate their state’s legislators. We have Nazi , Confederate, and KKK flags flying side by side with Trump 2020 banners. We have immigrant kids taken from the mothers and fathers and locked up. We have almost 70,000 dead in the last 2 months. We have some saying it’s ok for some to die but we need to open up our economy. Thousands are dying in nursing homes every week.


We have states saying they now need federal financial help in amounts we have never experienced in our nation’s history. We now have a president who has said he will block any financial assistance to individual states unless they agree with his immigration policies.


Last night we had Trump doing a “Town Hall” on Fox news inside the Lincoln Memorial. With the statue of Lincoln as a backdrop he said that he is being treated worse that Lincoln ever was.


This series of events should send shivers up your spine. Think about history, think what went on during the time of Lincoln.


MAGA my ass, this is an attempt to drive an ideological disease that the Trump family has carried with them for several generations. Do your homework understand what history mandates we learn or else we will repeat the same mistakes of the past.


Folks we have reached that fork in the road. Which one will you take?

It’s been a heck of a year

It has been a while since my last post. I have retired from teaching at the close of this school year and I have relocated to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Unfortunately, my last year teaching was one of the most difficult years of my teaching career.

As our local president I was in the middle of tense contract negotiations as well as dealing with new principals in every building. Our District hired a new superintendent who promptly moved me to a different building, knowing full well that I was retiring. Needless to say, my relationship with our new superintendent was strained to say the least. Unfortunately I had a school board that was blind to the damaging changes she wrought.

When we first met, I explained that I agreed that some change is positive and needed. However, change should be done with staff, not at staff. Unfortunately that advice fell on deaf ears.

My former district now has lost their science lab, SS texts, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar programs, and a viable reading program. Special ed teachers have their numbers increasing, reading teachers are overloaded and morale across the district is at an all time low. Yet, a ton of money was spent on Chrome books so that students now spend a good part of their day staring at a computer screen.

Testing was increased under this new administration, Fountas and Pinell (3 times a year),STARS ( 3 times a year-unless you get AIS services then it is even more) , and of course our state tests.

We were able to work out a new contract, only after an intense showing by by members at a school board meeting that woke up the community. Solidarity is powerful and my members learned that this year.

Now I move towards a new phase of my life. I intend to continue to advocate for public education and sensible pedagogy. I will begin posting more often but will also include a myriad of topics that I will be opining on.

Stay tuned.

RR

An insult towards experience

Why is it that these so call “change agents” that pop up every year as administrators, consultants, book sellers, publishers, and wannabes lack skills needed to embrace the gains of the past?  They often seek change for that sake of showing that they can affect change. Often these so called self proclaimed change agents have no regard for those who often have much more experience than them. They pretend they know more because they went to a conference, read an article, or most often than not they feel they know a better way.

I happened to be in our district’s conference room this week and I saw this comment taped to the wall.

playing school

 

I immediately commented on it as an insult to all the teachers in the district with many years of  experience.  I was then told, “The conversation was about children “playing school”, not teachers.”

My response, “So. my students were “playing school” because I was not on the  cutting edge? Past instruction practices caused our students to play school?  Really?”

Don’t get me wrong, change can be good, very good. Provided that change builds on the past’s best practices and that it is supported by real research, not opinion. Cutting edge can cut both ways. We need speak up and defend our own  professional experiences when these change agents declare they have a better way. We have witnessed their failures too many times.

Let’s make sure there is water in that pool before we have our students jump in .

emptypool2

We are all at risk

I never thought that I would say that am worried about are nation’s future, but I am. I’m deeply worried that a schism is about to rip the fabric of our great experiment to a point that it will not be able to be mended. There are forces pulling us apart in ways that at one time seemed unimaginable.

Could anyone have predicted our nation’s two political Parties would ever be as polarizing as they now are? We have two major Parties that are themselves divided in ways that may seal their own demise.  Republicans have the extreme Neocons on the Right who have pulled their Party to the brink and old school conservatives who now lack the power to  regain their real base to save themselves from extinction. The Democrats have a huge tent that pushes and pulls their platform in ways that prevents the Party from tracking in any direction.

The result, we have a President who is ripping us apart at the seams and  a Nation that has not been this polarized since the early 1800’s. The public is taking sides in a cult like way. Ignoring the facts laid before them they have chosen sides and refuse to buck the cult that they subscribe to. In addition, we have a growing number of ‘so called citizens’ whose heads are in the sand and refuse to act like true citizens and take a stand. They spend too much of their ignoring the world around them as they go about the merry way.

It’s all about to end. Our nation is about to descend into the abyss. We are about to be isolated from the world, appeasement will destroy the world order, our civil discourse will become uglier and uglier as we turn against each other. The Neocons will thrive in a new world order that will benefit a select few.

I wish I had an answer….

 

There is No Dignity in Teaching

I rarely reblog others, but this is a story that must be retold over and over again.

Administrators have forgotten that teachers (and the kids they work with) are in fact human beings and not numbers. Instead of standing up to government officials and defending their teachers, they uphold unfair—and frankly discriminatory— evaluation practices.

Read this…  https://urbanesl.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/there-is-no-dignity-in-teaching/comment-page-1/#comment-77

 

Change or Power Play?

Today the administration decided to shuffle the personnel in our very successful district. Our small K-6 district (New Hyde Park- Garden City Park) has 4 buildings and 145 teachers. I am the local President ( full disclosure).

Take a look at our NYS report card. Even though I am totally against this type of data, the data shows that we are extremely successful.  With this success, one would think that our new Superintendent and our 4 brand new building principals would look towards our successes, collaborate with staff and look to build on them.

Unfortunately, they have chosen to do the exact opposite. They announced a major shake up of most of the teachers here. They changed our grades we will teach, changed rooms and have us even changing buildings They are taking teachers who have spent many years in lower grades and assigning them to upper grades and vice a versa. They have refused to share the rationale for this upheaval.

I am well aware that every year there needs to be some changes, due to enrollment and other needs. Those changes are often rational decisions with some teacher input. Not this year! We have been told nothing except this is your new assignment.

As our Local President, I believe my new assignment in another building is due to my position as President. That will not stand. I have has a successful 19 year career  and I will be damned if they will get away with this.

To make matters worse our new Superintendent  comes to us from a district where she was the director of curriculum. I have been told, by those in charge, that it is unfair to compare her old district’s report card with ours. I disagree,  the truth must be exposed.

When we look at her report card we discover that our scores are 50% higher! When we take a close read of the data and look at the demographic we also discover that our population has many more immigrants and more ELL students.

So what does this show?  It shows that we are successful and we have a right, a duty and a need to sound the alarm! It shows that we need to be wary of change for the sake of change or change because that’s the way she has done it in her old district.

As President of our local. I requested that our local participate in the selection process for a superintendent. We were told no!  So this is the result. We are heading blindly into an abyss.  I feel sorry for the children our hands have been tied.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priorities?? Kids or Institution?

It’s been a while since I have posted anything on here. I’ve been using Twitter or Facebook as a way to get my thoughts out there. It’s no secret  that I am firmly against New York State’s testing policies. Today’s incident clearly pointed out to me that some administrators have their priorities in the wrong place.

We are beginning to witness the  pendulum starting to swing towards an end of the institutional abuse of our students. Both of New York State’s legislative branches have new Bills awaiting a vote that will make it illegal to use any state test to evaluate teachers. That’s a huge swing in our direction.

Opt outs must continue regardless of these Bills. The tests need to be eliminated all together. These new Bills will still allow some sort of test ( to be negotiated locally from a pre- approved list) to be used as an evaluation tool. We must continue to work to eliminate any test that is used to evaluate teachers, schools or principals. Test should be used only to inform our instruction! Nothing more!

Priorities?? Kids or Institution?

Our #1 priority should be the well being of the children we teach. Unfortunately, many administrators, including some of  new ones in my own district have a distorted view that our #1 priority should be the institution.

Today I was summoned into our superintendent’s office to discuss a possible disciplinary action . Upon arrival I was asked if I sent out a Tweet on April 12th during the state test. I willing admitted that I sent out the following tweet.tweet

I  learned at this meeting that another principal in my district took issue with me doing this and informed our superintendent. I was also informed that the superintendent contacted the State to see if  charges would be brought up because I used my ‘personal device’ during the test.

I was also told that the name of my accuser would be kept from me. I asked for the opportunity to speak with said principal so that I could explain why I took the video. That request was denied.

An open letter to the principal who chose the Institution over the kids.

Dear principal who chose to remain anonymous,

Every year I watch my students struggle with abusive assessments that provide me, as their teacher, with useless data. Every year the test is administered in the Spring just as allergy season  is in full swing. Every year my students must suffer through this test while leaf blowers, jets, garbage trucks and traffic create an annoying din that makes concentration difficult, especially with those of my students with ADHD, severe allergies and other issues that affect their learning. And yes, every year my students perform better than the state, region and often lead the district.

You cowardly chose  to  attack a teacher who was documenting the noise pollution that affected every child in our school rather than solve the problem of noise pollution or even solve the problem of these abusive tests. 

Your priorities are skewed. You may post tons of smiling faces on your own Twitter account but the truth is out there. Today, you chose the institution over those smiling faces. Shame on you.

Yes, I may have broken test protocol , but you broke something even more important. Your failure to approach me personally goes to character. Your failure to choose kids over institution goes to character. 

You got your teaspoon of flesh. I was reprimanded and told not to do it again. Tomorrow is test day #3. I will always choose kids over institution. The question is, what will you do?

Commitment

No charges are being brought against me.

I am still committed to ending test abuse. I am committed to the opt out movement. I am committed to the success of my students.

I am 63 years young. I have almost died twice. I have been working in one form or another for 50 years. I have always stood up for what I believed and I have never let a bully get their way, not even a principal.

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

Trumpkins

The evidence is clear:The Trump campaign met with Russian interests to obtain information to help their campaign. 

Trump’s top advisors omitted information on their security clearance applications.

Trump has close business ties with Russian oligarchs.

Trump and his advisors lied and continues to lie about their ties with Russians.

Trump still has not released any tax records.

Trump has isolated our country with the rest of the world.

Trump clearly deflected the issues by blaming the press instead of answering to the American people.
So why do Trumpkins continue to believe him? 
To answer that question, look at history. Why did followers of the most hideous leaders of the past follow them? 
Answer.. it’s easier to follow someone that validates your thoughts, instead of questioning your own beliefs. Perhaps it’s not Trump that is the problem. Perhaps it’s our culture. Perhaps our culture has created a group of blinded followers that have taken the easy way. Become a Trumkin because it validates my views of society. 
It’s much easier to follow a cause that validates your views rather than question your own views. 
This mindset takes years to develop. I believe it began with Newt Gingrich during the Clinton years. That is when the great political divide morphed into virus that could destroy our country. That is when modern day politics turned into partisan blocking and obstruction. That is when the battle to influence your views began.
And here we are today. 

Trumpkins are blinded. They remain silent when Trump embraces our enemy. They blame others for Trump’s behaviors. Their hate for liberals eclipses their common sense.
Trumpkins are supporting the destruction of the ACA even when they have no idea how it will effect them. They support their fellow Right Wing elected officials who refuse to hold hearings and discuss their plan. 
People, our nation is at the cusp. Do we follow the fears a the ultra Right, or do we toss away the hate and truly become the shining light upon the hill? 
Trumpkins, the ball may be on your side of the court, will you clear the net or will you flub it?

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