A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, September 24, 2007

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I have been given the honor of having a "co-teacher" this year. I'm all aflutter thus far.

Now we received an entire hour of training-- which is, by the by, 45 more minutes of training than we received on our new grading software-- in which we were told that co-teaching should be completely cooperative, and that both staff members should supervise students and grade papers and deliver information. Of course, the fact that neither of us have any time to actually sit down and plan together has been a tiny leetle hitch.

I could probably deal with that somehow. But now I must, as darlin' Educat says, remove something from my craw.

Because, apparently, "co-teacher" means "I will show up whenever I feel like it, and when I am there, I will sit on my can and play on my electronic devices." To be fair, there have been three times this year that my "co-teacher" has supervised a kid making up a test or an assignment.

BUT! Thus far, this person has not shown up more than 20% of the time. Gee I wonder what would happen if I didn't show up, even once?

I have received one email in advance of these disappearances, which said, and I quote in its entirety: "I have lots of important stuff to do." Well, of course, teaching this class we are both assigned to apparently isn't that important. The rest of the time-- POOF! C-T is not there...or else is walking in fifteen minutes late.

I guess I should be grateful that this person has not thus far brought in a litter of puppies, which, 'pon my honor, is what one other co-teacher once did to one of my colleagues after being absent for half the week.

Now, C-T's supervisor told me that I should pass along if I needed a sub when C-T isn't there, but since I get no advanced warning, and there is no way I'm going to stop keeping my little ducks in a row long enough to fire off an email that I know won't be read, I've been taking it on the chin.

But thank you, dear blogosphere, for providing some venting space. Grrrr.


Movie Madness Monday 84: Because someone sued God last week edition

I was thinking about how real education involves change, and change is sometimes frightening and painful. So of course this flick came to mind. I am sure those of you who are teachers have some of these quotes go through your heads at the oddest times. So let's see what quotes you can come up with for this one. I often think of the fourth quote when I am on hall duty. Like puberty itself isn't an emotional stress. Duh.

Remember, provide your own quotes from this same movie in the comments section. Since I did a chick flick (hate that term) last week, I'll toss a stick for you adrenaline junkies out there today.

"Now I think the American people deserve the right to decide if they want their children to be in school with mutants. To be taught by mutants!"

"Are you a God-fearing man, Senator? That is such a strange phrase. I've always thought of God as a teacher; a bringer of light, wisdom, and understanding."

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are now seeing the beginnings of another stage of human evolution. These mutations manifest at puberty, and are often triggered by periods of heightened emotional stress."

"Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand. Well, don't fear God, Senator, and certainly don't fear me. Not any more."

"You know, people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child."

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Friday, September 21, 2007

And now, a reprise of a favorite category: Stalker Mom

We've all had them-- those parents who just seem a little... off. Well, lucky me has one of them already this year, and everywhere I go, there she is, creepier than Billy Ray Cyrus' soul patch.

I go to the school office, and there she is. Sometimes she'll be overwhelmingly talkative in a completely random way.

I go to my car, and there she is in the parking lot. Yesterday, with 8 million spaces to choose from, I just step out to walk from my car, and she pulls into the space I"M WALKING IN. I had to nimbly jump out of the way while she looked at me blankly, obviously a coupla fries short of a Happy Meal.

I guess I should be grateful: the last of this species I had lived just down the street from my house, and her favorite habit was to block my car into the driveway as she tried to hold a parent-teacher conference about some 10 point assignment from four months ago as I was trying to leave the house. Once she even did this while my little white-haired Momma shivered in the February gloom.

At least this person doesn't live near me. But it's not good that she's very involved in our district, because good gawd, sometimes she's all over me like a cat on catnip, and then other times, she's a zombie.

It may make for an interesting year, as in the Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."


Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day Question

Well, now that we've all channelled James Madison all day long, let's ponder:

Was the three-fifths compromise the biggest deal with the devil, or what?

And now I'm sure that we will all go back to teaching absolutely NOTHING about the Constitution for the other 179 days of the school year. I mean, that's why we have to mandate the teaching of it on September 17, right?

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Movie Madness Monday 83: Cher's inspiration edition

Ahh, September. I remember all those days sitting in English class reading the classics. Just how it was that the classics often involved something dreadful, like Sir Walter Scott or James Joyce or John Dos Passos still boggles the mind. James Fenimore Cooper, forsooth!

So how lovely that we have alternatives, here at Movie Madness Monday, and I've decided to link to last week's film rather obliquely. So have at it!

Let's see if you can put up some quotes from this fil-- or the book.

"It left us speechless, quite speechless I tell you, and we have not stopped talking of it since."

"There is only one thing to do with a person as impossible as she."
"I must throw a party for her. Otherwise everyone will feel at once how much I dislike her."

"Maybe it is our imperfections which make us so perfect for one another."

"I can think of nothing less appealing than an evening of watching other people dance. Go on!
(throws stick for dog to fetch)
"Then you shall have to dance yourself."
"I have no taste for it. I'd rather fetch that stick."
"I'll try to remember to bring it to the ball."

"Vanity working on a weak mind produces every kind of mischief. "

****Weekend Update: Has Gwyneth ever been more lovely than in this film?


It's amazing-- she's in one of my favorite films, and she's in one of my most hated films-- SEVEN. And in this one she gets the guy and doesn't end up with her head in a box. Yeeesh.

Thanks for playing!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Leisure Class

So let's just say that, whilst heading to her classroom, a teacher became aware that a kid who was supposed to be in class was actually roaming the hallways at lunch-- and doing so apparently undetected, because a bevy of teachers were pulled out for professional development. Let's call this kid "Skippy."

Skippy informs this teacher that there is no teacher or substitute in her classroom, and that's why she is not where she should be. Suspicious teacher sends Skippy to class, but Skippy has not worn her ID today, so ST has no real idea who this young person is. Suspicious Teacher alerts an AP that there MAY be a class unstaffed, or there MAY be a kid who is MIA and lying about it roaming the hallways. Either way, perhaps he miiiiight want to make sure that mayhem isn't ensuing somewhere in the bowels of the building.

What to do when the AP hems and haws? When he is informed that he could probably find out who Skippy is by checking the videotape, and he evinces no interest?

This teacher I know just repeated the problem succinctly and sweetly, and then went back to HER room, where there were her own precious little lambs awaiting.

What would you do? Try to guess what Suspicious Teacher Did, besides feeling sorry for the other APs who try to carry Mr. Slacker's dead weight. Did she trust? Did she trust, but verify? Did she stop kidding herself?

I SO miss summer.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 82: Shark edition

Nothing says back to school like a good Movie Madness Monday! So let's dive in, shall we?

I give you the primer quotes, you give your own in the comments. Right? Here ya go, then.

"Miss Stoeger, I would just like to say that physical education in this school is a disgrace. I mean, standing in line for forty minutes is hardly aerobically effective. I doubt I've worked off the calories in a stick of Carefree gum."

"Isn't my house classic? The columns date all the way back to 1972!"

"Been shopping with Dr. Suess? "
"Well, at least I wouldn't skin a collie to make my back pack."

"I joined this program and there's steps. There's... uh..."
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"Wild guess."

"You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet."

"Which reminds me, where's your report card?
"It's not ready yet."
"What do you mean, 'It's not ready yet?'"
"Well, some teachers are trying to low-ball me, Daddy. And I know how you say, 'Never accept a first offer,' so I figure these grades are just a jumping off point to start negotiations."

****Weekend Update: AS IF!


Now THAT'S an update pf Jane Austen's Emma!


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A brand new Carnival to welcome us back to school!

Go SEEE! At The Education Wonks!!!!!!!!!!

IB a Math Teacher has a "hot" story, and Ms. Teacher is "piercingly" observant! Mamacita reminisces about getting an eyefull, or maybe not.

You must go to explore for yourself!


Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day 2007: We come to bury workers, not to praise them

It is Labor Day. In honor of this day, I would ruminate for a while on the state of the working person in this country.

I am the daughter of working people. I am the granddaughter of working people. I watched my father either get up at 4:30 each morning and trudge off to the first shift or come home at 11:30 from the late shift nearly every day of my life. For over thirty-four years, my father worked on the aircraft that ferried people around the country. I watched my mother get up even earlier to make his lunches of fried bologna or fried Spam or pork chop sandwiches-- no fear of cholesterol there, obviously-- and thermoses of coffee, and wash his incredibly dirty clothes.

Dad sometimes came home from work covered in tiny metal shavings that would scrape everywhere that they had gotten under his clothes. For years, anytime I would see him without the dark blue work shirt, dark khaki pants, and black Red Wing shoes, I would know it had to be the weekend. When he wore a pair of sandals my brother bought him after he retired, I almost recoiled in horror. He did not enjoy this work, but he did it because that's what men did. He was tired a lot. He worked hard. My mother worked hard.

I was able to be the first person in my family to complete college because of union wages. I was able to get braces on my teeth because of union wages-- and my mother's scrimping. It was union wages that made it possible for millions of people to gain a foothold into the middle class.

Yet whither the American worker? For the last twenty-five years, it has become the fashion to denigrate the American worker as lazy, as incompetent, as a toady of organized crime, as fat and ungrateful, or as wild-eyed socialists. Countless politicians have curried the favor of corporations and their deep pockets by chanting this mantra repeatedly, and the most puzzling thing of all to me is, some working people themselves have voted some of these Judases into office.

My father was one of these people-- voting for some clean-cut, vacuous talking-heads that had never worked a hard day in their lives because they promised to bring "morality" back into the publc sphere. Twenty-five years later, I don't see morality being any more prevalent-- far from it. Let us not discuss the inadvisability as well as the impossibility of legislating morality in a free society (witness, please, all of the recent scandals regarding so many of these paragons of virtue). Instead, let us consider morality. How is it moral for children of working people to have no health care? How is it moral for worker productivity to be up but real wages to be at their lowest point since 1947?

After twenty-five years, why haven't all these politicians delivered upon their promises to re-order society according to their so-called moral mandates? Could it be because, if they were to end access to abortion or actually balance the federal budget (HA!) or actually deliver on any of the other empty talking points they cynically employ, people might wake up and realize that their own economic self-interests have been destroyed by these very same politicians? Might the voters suddenly see how those politicians are are the trollops of corporations, but dependent upon the votes of the workers?

I was reading about the use of H-2B visas for the last two days. Thousands of foreign workers have been brought to the US to do work that employers supposedly can't find Americans to do. In the story, the majority of the workers were brought up to the US to work manicuring the lawns of people in million-dollar homes. Ahhhh, the irony.

Why can't these employers find American workers? No one considers that pay might be the problem, not the hard work. The employers advertise for American workers, and get few responses, but perhaps the fact that they're advertising for landscaping workers in February might have something to do with the lack of response, as well. That's how early they have to advertise in order to then show that they can't find Americans so that then they can get the authorization to go south of the border and recruit workers.

There is no such thing as a job Americans won't do. There is such a thing as a job Americans can't afford to do on the salary offered.

God bless the working man and woman. They deserve much more than a day off from work. They deserve our respect. They are the backbone of our country.

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Movie Madness Monday 81: Air Show edition

Welcome back, all five of you, to Movie Madness Monday. Since this is Labor Day, I am taking it easy.

Still waiting for some feedback on the questions I posed last week. Should MMM change to music lyrics for a while? Got any movies you think I've missed?

So here's this week's edition:

"Where did you see this?"
"Uh, that's classified."
"It's what?"
"It's classified. I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

"That was some of the best flying I've seen to date - right up to the part where you got killed."

"Too close for missles; I'm switching to guns."

"This is what I call a target rich environment."

"Damn, this kid is good!"

Afterburners on!

****Weekend Update: Howlin' into overdrive into


Pretty woman. Pretty Man. Big fast planes. Evil Soviets you don't actually have to look at.

Val Milmer looking slightly less like a druggie. Anthony Edwards with hair, akthough that still doesn't save him from dying. Meg Ryan before she was a star.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

A good substitute is worth his or her weight in plutonium

Apparently, some school districts have wised up to the fact that teachers DO sometimes get sick, and there needs to be more than just a warm body to put into the classroom.
As students prepare to head back to classes, school districts facing staff shortages are offering even bigger incentives -- from gift certificates to job training -- to lure substitutes.

With stiff competition among districts, officials know they must try harder to make spitball-dodging subs feel appreciated in what's often a thankless job.

"We're locked by four or five school districts around us and subs have a choice of where to go," said Dave Kuschel, spokesman for the Maplewood (Mo.) Richmond Heights School District near St. Louis, where subs get a free movie pass after 15 days of work, a $20 book store gift certificate after 20 days and a $100 bonus after 50 days. That's on top of a daily rate of $80 to $147, depending on experience.

"We hope that incentives will steer them in our direction," Kuschel said.

Every school day, about 5 million children in 274,000 classrooms have substitute teachers, said Geoffrey Smith, director of the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State University. And all indications are that the need is growing.

Seventy-three percent of U.S. districts had an "immediate, urgent need" for subs that was "likely to grow to a crisis level within the next 10 years," according to a 2003 bill that would have established a grant program to help alleviate the substitute shortage. The bill died in a U.S. House of Representatives education subcommittee.

Some districts have chronic substitute shortages that worsen during the holidays or flu season, while others are just trying to keep up with exploding enrollment.

In Illinois, the number of new teacher certificates has increased 6 percent per year since 2001, but the number of substitute certificates has only risen 2 percent a year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
The situation is so bad in two districts north of Chicago -- Waukegan School District 60 and North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 -- that officials there want lawmakers to lift a 90-day limit on hiring the same sub.
Not all districts have trouble finding subs. Some, like Chicago Public Schools, have more than they need. But others have to come up with new ways to lure the highest-quality substitutes.
So, what do most substitutes want?

Respect from teachers and principals and the sense they're appreciated, Smith said.
"When we train administration, they always think the reason subs leave is pay," Smith said. "The bottom line is they want a good working environment."

Marcus Wolfe has been a substitute teacher in six northern Illinois districts and last year he worked about 165 of the school year's 180 days. He said the best incentive is a sub-friendly environment, including substitute handbooks, an expectation that teachers will provide lesson plans for subs and frequent interaction with administration and other faculty.

I was a sub twice in my life-- in college, and between teaching jobs. I learned very quickly which schools to avoid, and which schools deserved my loyalty. The places that treated subs right began with expecting and enforcing the appropriate behavior from students. That was the most vital piece of the puzzle-- even above pay, which was pretty standard all across the area in which I lived. If kids were able to behave like poo-flinging monkeys with impunity, that was not a place I wanted to be-- no matter what they paid me.

There was one middle school I was called to in a chi-chi suburban area where a teacher had gotten sick in the middle of the day. I walked into the building, and there were kids roaming the halls at will. When I got to the classroom, it was a bit better, but I knew if the kids didn't have to obey the regular staff, they weren't going to obey me, either. The lesson plans took ten minutes to complete, with 45 minutes left and nothing for the students to do. At lunch, all the teachers were in gripe groups in the lounge, and I was forced off onto a grubby side-table while being surreptitiously and suspiciously ogled by the others. The piece de resistance was when the principal called an enormous and emotionally disturbed student from the last class of the day to the office, informed him he was suspended for ten days, and then sent him BACK to my class for the last twenty minutes of the day. He paced back and forth in the room, enraged, and I managed not to let him hurt anybody, which I considered a huge moral victory. I made it through the day, and decided never to return. Later in the same year, I was offered a job in that building, and was glad I had the knowledge to be able to avoid that trap.

So what advice would I give districts regarding their substitute teaching needs? Here's what I looked for:
1. Lesson plans with enough activities to fill the instructional period and seating charts with student' names, and pronunciation hints. I even had one teacher who had pictures of the kids on the seating chart-- that was incredible.

2. Administrators who make it clear through their actions that student misbehavior for substitutes will not be tolerated.

3. It was really nice when neighboring teachers would come into the room as soon as I got there to offer their assistance and make me feel welcome.

4. The kids are friendly and helpful.

5. Finally, if you have some great subs, consider hiring them when full-time openings occur.

I was once told in one district-- I swear-- that I was too valuable as a sub for them to hire me as a teacher, because they knew they could plug me into anything from an orchestra class to an International Baccalaureate class and I could actually teach the students instead of just babysitting (and for the bargain price of fifty bucks a day with no need to pay benefits.) The woman speaking to me was serious.

And so was I when I told her thanks, and that unfortunately I would be unable to sub for her district any more.

The woman speaking to me looked stunned and said, "But I was paying you a compliment!"

To which I replied: "Compliments don't pay the bills or provide job security."

I always try to make my subs feel welcome, leaving them drinks in the fridge and change in the desk drawer for snacks. as well as inflicting severe consequences upon any student who doesn't toe the line.

Subbing is one of the hardest gigs on the planet. They deserve our thanks and our help. God bless 'em, every one.

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We're Number One! We're Number One!

My beloved alma mater was given the honor of the first football game of the season last Thursday at 6 pm against the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and we won 35-17! It was just wonderful that it was televised on ESPN-2, as well, so that those of us who are Okie-expats actually got to see the game!

Then it occurred to me: for a few minutes, probably from about 9:45 to 10:30, we were the only Division I college football program with a 1-0 record. So that makes us Number One in the nation, which is the first time we could say that since my sophomore year in college, when we were number 16 in the nation. Heady days! I was the girl in the front of the band in the ugly blue polyester flared-leg uniform screaming her head off. You might have seen me. I assure you I am much calmer now.

But we're number one! I wanted to say that while I could!

Go Hurricane!

And by the way, a small note to the TU athletic department: since we're known as the Golden Hurricane, perhaps a bit more gold on the uniform might make some sense. I mean, c'mon, you've got blue and gold.... and red.... and white???????

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