Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position. - Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

back with a vengeance

so, it's been a long time. i think my last post was me saying that i wasn't going to be teaching next year. so much has changed.

i will be teaching next year. i realized that for many reasons it would not be wise for me to give up a stable position that sufficiently supports myself and my family and that i do actually care about. my new plan is to diversify.

in the coming year i'll be taking more certification tests. specifically for: ELA 4-8, ELA 8-12, Reading Specialist, and Librarian. this way, when my current job moves from a resource classroom to a co-teaching situation i'll be able to get a job in which i can maintain my own classroom or leave the classroom for a library. longterm i would like to pursue a Master's in Information Science and become a full-fledged librarian.

this is all subject to change, of course.

i do have some more shortterm issues that i'd like to throw out there for anyone still reading besides the spambots.

i have hopes to bring Mix It Up Day to my campus. ideally i would like to start and help facilitate some kind of diversity club. this would be a safe space for students to discuss issues of discrimination, bullying, and differences. but i have no clue where to start. has anyone done anything like this?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

to those of you that still check back in, i apologize for my silence. i haven't had it in me to post lately. largely, this is due to my decision to leave the teaching profession at the end of this school year. i'll be returning to school for a master's in social work with a possible second degree in pastoral counseling.

there are a lot of reasons for this. nclb is one of them. it kills me to see my kids fall through the cracks. it kills me that their success at school hinges more and more on a test. but there are other reasons. the school i am currently working at is too far away from my home to continue that drive regularly, and i can't imagine working anywhere else. the principal and other teachers and paraprofessionals are amazing to work with. and frankly, teaching was never my dream career. i made a decision based on job availability, security, and an early start date. i'm not made to be "on" all the time as is necessary being a teacher. i need to be able to shut my door and work alone.

knowing that this is the decision i am making has actually made the year easier. i feel less pressure to do all of the necessary TAKS teaching. of course my students are getting it but we're having fun with it. i put the "writing for social change" project on the backburner because we need to focus more on reading right now. so i've got the beginnings of a great unit involving charlie and the chocolate factory ending in a comparison of the book and the latest version of the movie. i'm admittedly nervous about taking on an entire book unit with my kids but i think it will be worth it. they have never done anything like this in all of their school years so they need to learn it on some level.

i am sharing my classroom with the esl teacher and we've been sharing a lot of ideas lately. one thing she did to finish the semester was have her students write a book of short stories. they chose fantasy and they workshopped the stories and published them and she had the books bound. i think that would be a great way to end the year so i'm keeping it in mind.

right now i'm trying to enjoy a relaxing winter break and get some planning done.

Monday, October 24, 2005

where have i been and where am i going?

i've been trying to make it through work and figure out if this is something i can continue doing. i mean, i'm glad i stuck it out a second year because i can see a huuuuuge difference in myself as a teacher. there are days when i totally hit my stride and i feel like i'm making a difference. there are other days that i want to throw my hands up and walk out because i'm taking on a seemingly impossible task.

the past 2 weeks were spent doing a project on the library research process. it was cool, the kids were into it, and i think they may have learned something. i know that i learned something. i learned that projects are good. projects in which the kids have control over a significant part of it are even better. so of course my wheels have been turning in my brain.

today i'm at home. i needed to take a personal day. october spells burnout for me. but i'm not completely shunning work today. here i am, writing about it. i have to flesh out this idea that i've had going in my brain that i want to attack after the winter break.

students are going to identify something they would like to see change in their school, in their town, in their see where i'm going i hope? it can be a little thing or a big one. they'll go about changing it.

i'm working in the persuasive essay, research, supporting details and main idea.
there will be letter writing, interviews when feasible, and depending on the things they choose we could work some guest speakers in.

i would like the kids to be working in groups of some kind. i haven't figured out whether that would be one whole class as a group or groups of 3 or 4.

my goal in this project is to teach them the curriculum in a way that doesn't seem totally divorced from real life. the kids i'm working with need skills that they can carry into the real world. after a good talk with my principal and a better one with my department chair i feel confident in taking this on.

i had thought this summer that i could do a zine project with my kids and i'm thinking that i could tie that in and we would attack the whole publishing process that way.

i'm really excited. i just need to figure out where to begin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

fed up

i suppose i should be talking about how wonderful my second year is going. i wish i was posting just that. i wonder what my role is here in this blog. i've kept private journals both on paper and online so i've never worried too much about what my purpose was other than to express my feelings. so i'm going to go with that instinct.

i find myself questioning daily whether or not teaching is for me. or maybe it is teaching special ed. i don't know. there are so many things that i feel "get in the way" of me doing what i want to in the classroom. primarily there is NCLB. as educators we are being told not to think about what each child needs but to focus more on teaching a test. because we are doing just that. we can't get by teaching critical thinking skills, writing skills, etc. we must do so in a way that ensures success on a standardized test.

so i have a question. i'm opening it up to the educators out there as well as those that are reading for other reasons.

we are taught in education classes that there are different kinds of learners. oral, visual, kinesthetic. this isn't some kind of wacky "theory" either. i feel certain that it has been proven. i look at the people i know and i see different types of learners. so why are we expecting all types of learners to be the same kind of tester as the next person? why aren't we giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways?

i'm going to spend this year being the best damn teacher i can be. i just can't promise i'll be returning for more next year.

but i will update more often in this space while i work it out. i promise.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

what to even say?

there are no words for the devastation hitting my fellow Americans one and two states away. i anticipate getting students as a result of the hurricane and the destruction following its path.

there are so many places your money and time will be appreciated.

i leave you with these words:

In the often and rightly quoted words of Bill Clinton, "There's nothing wrong with America that can't be fixed by what's right with America." We see now how individuals and groups around the country are acting in any way they can to help their fellow citizens in Louisiana, Mississippi and other devastated places near the Gulf of Mexico. They refuse to stand idly by and wait for President Bush and his morally-bankrupt, pirate administration to respond in an appropriately urgent and compassionate manner to the escalating agony and desperation of our fellow citizens. This agony and desperation was caused in large part by a near complete absence of adequate federal government funding, preparedness, and leadership. We the people will continue to help Americans and non-Americans alike, with or without the participation or approval of George W. Bush and his Neo-Conservative cohorts. While it is true that what is most important right now is to rescue, feed, house, and in any way possible care for those immediately affected by the disaster, it is equally true that in the long run those directly responsible for aggravating the tragic situation must be held accountable. The mounting evidence of the Bush administration's criminal mismanagement of the nation, as well as its consistently arrogant disregard for our planet's people and natural environments must be confronted immediately. Those who voted for Bush last year, or who have continually supported his outlaw administration in its destructively dishonest conduct, including not only extremist conservatives but also politically-calculating democrats, need not hang their heads or avert their eyes now. What they can and ought to do is join the increasing numbers of Americans who are demanding that presidential impeachment proceedings be initiated as soon as possible. Members of the Bush Administration responsible for the blatant lies and self-serving manipulations that have fanned the flames of disaster from Iraq to New Orleans must be prosecuted as our laws require. We must insist on this. Furthermore, we must not allow these disgracefully unpatriotic public servants to be pardoned by any future president as Gerald Ford did for Richard Nixon. Please call or write your government representatives and help get the scoundrels out of government and in prison where they belong. Do not allow the subject to be changed, do not be distracted. The time to act is now. Take back your country.
- Viggo Mortensen

there are a lot of important things being said, and they aren't being said by anyone in the government.

i hope people see the mishandling of the land and the people that live there for what it is and demand answers and accountability.

Monday, August 22, 2005

a wine-enhanced rant

i'm having a discussion elswhere online about public school and the other education options we make for our own children. it is making me think and triggering the soapbox that i so often pull out when asked about education and funding and all that is tied into it. because i am incredibly passionate about this topic. annoyingly so, as some would say.

i have made a choice to send my offspring to public school. i say this as a person who never once recieved a public education. my past experiences in elementary and secondary education are topics for a separate post but suffice it to say my experiences were not those of the typical public school educated child in the 80's and 90's. so i made a choice, based on economic factors on both ends of the spectrum, to choose public for my own offspring.

right, so i'm also, obviously, a public school teacher. and i teach special ed. for those not in the know, we are the population that bring the test scores down, that are swept under the rug when possible and villified the rest of the time. it is also no coincidence that there are a dispoportionate number of special ed students in the "minority", "at-risk", and "economically disadvantaged" subpopulations.

i could probably, with some juggling and family assistance, figure out a way to either homeschool or "private school" my own child. but i won't. i can't imagine anything but the direst of circumstances that would change my mind either. part of this is the privilege of living in a very wealthy and envied school district. but i think i would feel the same wherever i lived.

public school may be seen as a failing system by many and at times i'd agree. but it is the largest education system we have and i see know great alternatives on the horizon. certainly no alternatives for the population of people that can't afford the more expensive choices. so what do those of us determined to change the system do? some say the only answer is to abandon it and start from scratch. a noble idea. also a privileged one. i would rather stay in the trenches. it is exhausting, it is heartbreaking, it is a downhill battle, but it is also often totally worth it. rewarding. and that is enough.

i can't imagine leaving this system to be run solely by those who think is is running like a well-oiled machine. because they are the ones who ignore my kids. the onces who would sooner see them at another facility than in their classrooms. and i'm not ready to lay down to them. i'd rather stay in that publically funded, test-driven classroom and sneak in my own messages of self-advocation and true critical thinking so that when the time comes they can make better decisions for themselves. because this is the future. all children. not just the kids that fit so neatly into the box.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

notes to self

don't mind me, i just need to make an accessible note that won't get lost in a pile of papers on things my students are showing they need major work on after day one:

- quotation marks (did i really do that bad of a job with this last year????)
- determining meanings of unknown words
- remembering what you read
- identifying details
- asking for help when you don't know a word
- not losing your place when you read

the good news is that most of my kids do not daydream while reading. i'm sure this is mostly because they are trying so damn hard to understand what it is they are reading.

i did a reading skills survey of my kids today to find out what it is that they recognize about themselves as readers and it is kind of cool to read the responses of the kids i had last year. especially when i can see the jump in their own self-confidence levels from last year. that makes me happy.

now i have to figure out what order to do everything in. i'm thinking i should start out with punctuation because i think learning those cues will help their reading as well. but i've got some great beginning of the year stuff on reading. the planning part is the hardest part, no doubt.

okay, i was poking my head out for a bit. back to work