Opine I will

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

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

I need to set the record straight

I teach my students that their reputation is the most important asset they own. Your reputation is determined by your actions, your deeds, and also how you are viewed by others. Therefore, it is vital that  you understand that your reputation ultimately defines you. Success is not judged by how much you make, but rather, real success is judged by your character and how others view your actions and deeds.  I believe this with my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, my character was questioned by an unproven allegation. Ultimately it was determined I did no wrong and the allegation was unfounded. I write this posting today as a record of what has transpired over the last two days. I also owe my students and their parents an accurate representation as to what occurred so that they may be fully informed.

My views on the Common Core and high stakes testing,  are well documented on this blog as well as on other web sites including Facebook and Twitter. I  assumed that one day, I would be challenged for my beliefs, and I have even commented that teachers live in fear of retribution for their beliefs. Well this week it was my turn to be challenged. Not only was my professional judgement challenged, my First Amendment Rights were challenged.

It all  began Wednesday evening with the following “tweets”;

tweet ccss

My initial tweet was an editorial comment based on a Common Core standard (which includes a similar example in the standard), and included a generic example that can be found in many practice workbooks. As you can see Allison Sitts, aka, IthacaGorges took exception to my message and accused me of posting an actual test question.  I followed up with a response stating that it was not an actual test question. At this point I thought little of Allison, I didn’t remember conversing with her before and just assumed the conversation was over.  Well it wasn’t!

The next morning ( Thursday) I administered part 2 of the New York State Math  Common Core Math assessments to my class. Immediately following this exam, ( It was literally minutes after collecting the test books.) My principal was standing at my classroom doorway , with a very distraught and serious look on her face, and says, “I need you to come outside now.”

I say, “OK, I’ll be right there.”

She then says, ” I need you right now. “

My first thoughts are about the well being of my elderly parents, my wife or my children.. so I leave the room and find my Superintendent there, who immediately hands me a letter, and says. “you must come with me now.” Without having time to read the letter, I grab a pen, and a notebook and then he, and my principal escorted me downstairs, into the administrative wing and ultimately into his office. On the way down he informs me that my union representative and union president are on the way and that they will join us. Once in the office, as we waited for my representative to arrive, I read the letter and it said that I was going to be interviewed regarding concerns about my workplace conduct. So there I sat.. wondering what is this about?

Once my representatives arrived, I was initially questioned whether or not I posted test questions on the internet, on my blog , or on Twitter. I replied I did not and then I was shown the tweets that are at the center of this controversy. I explained that it was a generic example with an editorial comment, and that I am entitled to post  my opinion. He then informed me that Alllison Sitts , who I just then found out is a math specialist for Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga- Boces, sent an e-mail to my principal accusing me of posting test questions and suggested my district conduct an investigation. ( Now to be fair, as of today I have not read that e-mail because it has not been provided to me yet.)

Based on this,  my superintendent informed me that he would be contacting the Nassau County BOCES Superintendent and the New York State Education Department, regarding my ” posting of a state test question.” He then informed me that I would be placed on administrative leave and would not be allowed back into my classroom. As you can well imagine, a heated discussion followed which I will not disclose at this time. Throughout the entire discussion I maintained my position that under the First Amendment I am entitled to post my opinions, and that I did not post any test questions.

I immediately expressed a concern for my students. I told him my students saw me removed from my classroom, and I know that they will be upset.I was basically told,  they don’t know why you left and they’ll get over it. I also expressed a concern that my students are facing a 6th day of extensive testing the next day and that it was unfair that they will be forced to face it without their teacher ‘s encouraging words. As you can imagine, that appeal fell on deaf ears.

I asked why didn’t they wait until my prep period to summon me thereby not having the children observe me being escorted out. I also questioned, why I was being removed from the classroom, and why couldn’t the investigation continue while I was teaching. Was I a threat to the school or my students???

 I was told that upon the advice of the district’s counsel I was being placed on administrative leave.

I was offered the choice of remaining in an office to work on lesson plans or I can work from home. At this point, after consulting with my representatives, and a NYSUT ( our union) attorney I decided to work from home. I then had to wait until my students lunch period, so that I may be escorted by my principal to my room, to gather my personal belongings.

I then left the building and went home.

On Friday, I received a hand delivered letter at home, with a directive to pick one of three thematic units to develop. As I sat home wondering when I would be allowed to return to my class ( I never had any doubt  that I wouldn’t) I set to work on my project.. Upon the advise of my counsel. I ‘laid low’ , I didn’t tweet, post on my blog, or answer parent’s emails that were questioning what happened because they heard I was escorted out. I put my energies into the task at hand, developing a Social Studies- LA unit. As you may have guessed I decided to develop a unit based on the Bill of Rights, specifically the First Amendment.I knew I would be vindicated so I did  what I was instructed to do.

As I was completing my task, just before 3 PM I received a phone call from the District Superintendent. He informed me that he filed a report with the New York State Education Department and that they have cleared me. I was now welcome to go back to my school on Monday.

Last night as I was answering parent e-mails that I put aside during this ordeal, I discovered that parents thought I was arrested! You see my students went home upset, and one thing led to another.

Hopefully my student’s parents will find their way to this blog, the rumors will end, and my reputation will be made whole. I look forward to teaching my students the importance of the First Amendment and how you should never allow anyone to take your rights away.

Hell Week and the Terror Continues

Hell week continues..

Last week NYS students were subjected to 270 minutes of abusive high stakes tests courtesy of  the New York State Regents, New York Governor Cuomo, New York State Commissioner of Education John King, The New York State Legislature, The Federal Department of Education Secretary Arnie Duncan,  President Obama, and Pearson. They all love to take the credit for their ‘ education reform’ agenda, so they rightfully also deserve the blame for the outrageous abuse that occurred this week.

These so called assessments were  not assessments. They were instruments of terror. They caused anxiety, fear, mass confusion, self doubt, turmoil, and threats on our most innocent. After all isn’t that what terror is? In addition this terror was caused by those with an agenda that is radicalized by false information, and a deep seeded belief that only those who claim to know the answer must be right. 

Our children were forced to complete 3 days worth of tests which lasted 90 minutes each day. They were forced to listen to 20 minutes of warnings, instructions and admonitions before even being allowed to begin their arduous ordeal.  Many were threatened with suspension, the lost of privileges  and activities if they did not succumb and take these tests. Parents were admonished for being poor parents for demanding their rights as parents. Teachers were ordered to stay mum about what they thought and saw. Teachers were  told that their right to share their objections were stripped away and ordered to remain silent.

Children, cowered in fear in bathrooms, nurses offices and at home in fear of these tests. Administrators walked the halls in search of any teacher that may suspiciously be hovering over a child without asking if that teacher was offering words of comfort.

Those children who took on these tests worked  like they were in sweatshops plowing through question after question while watching the clock. Many of those who did not reach their quota of answered questions by the set time, will face severe penalties that will be on their academic records forever.

As a teacher, I can’t talk about the individual questions which were more akin to a paragraph scavenger hunt. Questions that asked which paragraph changed the focus or which paragraph best said this or that. I can’t talk about the embedded advertisements that were seen by captive children, or misspelled words, or even reading passages that were beyond  grade level. I can’t talk about recycled reading passages that some children had the privileged to see prior to the test, or even how our children were forced to endure field questions that added to their anxiety.

Yes, all those I mentioned above are responsible for the terror in the eyes of the children as they sit on the edge of their seats next week as I hand out the Math tests. Yes I’ll see their legs twitching, I’ll see them upset as they try to race through another 270 minutes of abuse. I’ll dry their tears as they explain that they tried hard. I’ll watch them place their heads on their tests like I saw this week, when facing exhaustion andas  they are digging down for the reason to go on.

All of those responsible, sit in their offices, stand at their podiums, and spout their BS. yet, none of them  sat with a room of children and really looked into their souls and reflected on the damage they have done. 

Part 2 of Hell week continues..

 

It’s All About to Hit the Fan

It’s all about to hit the fan. 

New York State’s own version of  ‘Hell Weeks‘  begins this week. Beginning on Tuesday, most of New York’s children will be undergoing a grueling 540 minutes of high stakes testing.

This past weekend NY Education Commissioner John King said, “… that these assessments are an opportunity, not a judgment of failure,” King said, “It’s an opportunity to see how we do against something that is challenging … after all, we want students to become adults who are courageous about taking challenges.” King,whose own children go to a Montessori school and will not be subjected to this testing, doesn’t have a clue about transforming children into courageous, and independent  lifetime learners. His actions speak much louder than his nonsensical words. Shielding his own children from these tests, and his own regulations, while subjecting other children to them, is gross misconduct. Every parent in this state should be demanding his immediate resignation. He obviously does not believe in public schools.

I wish Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King would answer the tough questions on courage.

  • Will these test measure how an extremely courageous child in my class is handling a devastating family situation?
  • Will these test take into consideration, a child dealing with a breakup of his family? A child dealing with a parent’s illness? Their own illness??
  • Will these tests measure the awesome curiosity and courage developed over the course of the year?
  • Will these tests measure the emotional growth of a child who entered my class shy and withdrawn and now is willing to take a chance?
  • Will these tests take into consideration, the child who is entering puberty and his /her confidence is on shaky ground as they struggle with their identity?
  • Will these tests measure how a child has developed into a creative writing, willing to share their personal thoughts as they write from the hearts?
  • Will these tests measure how a child has become confident enough to recognize that they need to reach out for the extra help they need?
  • Will these tests take into consideration the fear and anxiety brought on by the excessive pressure of high stakes testing?
  • Will these tests measure how children who go to sleep hungry at night, manage somehow to show up to school and do their very best?
  • Will these tests measure how those with physical challenges courageously do the best they can every day?

Commissioner King, you have no clue what courage is. You are about to learn a lesson of courage from thousands of parents all across the state.

The Power of Courageous Parents

All across the state thousands of parents are gearing up for battle this week. Arming themselves with letters they are informing their local districts that they are their child’s best advocate and they are responsible for their child’s education, future ,and most importantly, their emotional well being. They are informing their teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards, that their children will not be taking these tests. They are refusing to have their children sit though 540 minutes of abusive testing, and that they don’t see these tests as a challenge. They see these tests, as an example of corporate reform, hell bent on destroying public education and being  let through the hallowed gates of our communities most precious assets, by a Education Commissioner and Governor, who don’t believe in local control and the ‘public’ in public education.

These parents have the courage to say, “No! You will not be doing this to my child!  This is not an opportunity this is abuse and we won’t let you do it!

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