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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finally, a parent question with an easy answer

It is now the middle of the semester, which means parents are suddenly pulling themselves out of their comas and realizing that their kids do not have the grades that the parents desire, no matter how many times we have contacted them about this fact.

So a colleague received a communication from a parent that asked why the kid had so many zeroes in the grade book.

"Because the student did not do the work," was the reply.

Kid told mom that through some vicious campaign, the teacher had never given him the assignments. Then she contradicted herself and said he couldn't find them any more. So where can she get all of the assignments for the entire next unit?

Easy. From your kid. All you've gotta do is ask him for him. Asking every day might do it.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Musing #8: harassment policies

For your consideration: what is your district's policy on sexual harassment of GLBT students? How well is that policy enforced, if at all?

Our school district studiously avoids mentioning that we may have GLBT students in any sort of written policy, and has declined to include GLBT as a protected category of student, allegedly on the advice of attorneys, whatever that means.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

A teacher says no to a bond issue

The district in which I reside is asking for voters to approve a bond issue. "It won't raise your taxes!" the fliers trumpet! Ooooohhhh! We'll be able to get a new football stadium and a new Ceeeement pond (that's "swimmin' pool" to you non-Okies) for the Swim Team and all kinds of wonderful stuff. Of course, the fact the the superintendent's kids are swimmers has nothing to do with these priorities. Of course not.

But nonetheless, I am not voting for it.

Not because I don't think it would be great to have our home swimming matches actually at home--I do. Not because the old football stadium isn't leaky and creepy if structurally sound-- it is.

I oppose this bond issue because of the lies within the list of things that they claim will be done. After all the razzle- dazzle, they claim that they will redo the floors of the classrooms and fix the lighting and buy new air conditioners.

But I have lived in this district for over twenty years. And in that time, I have seen four bond issues passed that promised all of these things before. What almost always happens is that the big-ticket items come first in priority, they go massively over- budget, and then the little things get swept under the rug. After all, what the public will be looking for is the Natatorium and the Stadium-o-dreams. Most people who actually go into a school don't always notice the holes in the wall along the thirty-year-old vinyl floorboards which are exactly the color of baby poop. Or the mismatched tiles on the floor which enterprising teachers have covered over with twenty-year-old rickety furniture through which twenty years of butts have rotated. Or windows that are bolted shut because the hinges are missing and panes of glass would go shattering to the ground if teachers tried to open up the windows and let a little fresh air in. They don't look up and notice the bulging, discolored tiles on the ceiling (probably filled with asbestos) which indicate serious leaking issues on the roof. They don't notice the dead cockroaches in the bathroom which the maintenance staff insists are really "water bugs." They don't notice the broken desks, either. Or the rodent feces on the floors.

But I do. I am a teacher.

It's not that I live in a crumbling, urban district. We are a nice, diverse, middle class, suburban part of town. But this school district is run based on abstract expressionism when it comes to appearances: from a distance, it looks hazy and beautiful, but get up close and it's a blotchy mess. And the supervisors of this district from the superintendent on down like it that way. As long as we have that new swimming pool and flashy stadium, people will assume that this is a well-run, affluent place.

But before I see a new stadium, I would like to see a new heating and cooling system set in place so I don't have to worry about the kids with asthma. I would like to see new roofs on the buildings that can be walked upon to get to those cooling systems without creating waterfalls in the classrooms every time it rains or snows. I would like to see investment in new furniture for students and teachers before any more upgrades to the brand new district offices. I would like to see the ducts cleaned and the mice eradicated and holes in the floorboards replaced. Then, and only then, talk to me of swimming pools and three more weight rooms that only benefit one hundred kids in the entire district.

I talked to a principal about the fact that students were sitting in broken desks last year in one of the schools my own kids attend. In response, the maintenance staff threw out all the broken desks over the center. But, as a perfect example of the disconnect, nobody thougt to buy new ones. So the school year started out with massive desk shortages. I guess that was my fault for not just leaving well enough alone.

What does it say about our concern for students that we are not willing to invest in desks for them to sit in and learn in that are actually in one piece? What does it say when we expect teachers and students with asthma to come into buildings where day after day they are exposed to mold and mildew and black gunk blowing out of the overhead vents? What does it say that a stadium that will be used perhaps forty times a year means more than the daily experience of our students in classrooms that are clean and at least as lovingly maintained as the artificial turf in that same stadium?

New desks and cooling systems aren't sexy. But those are the things that should come first, if we stop behaving like kids who want to eat candy all the time. Why aren't these things taken care of in the regular budget process? And don't tell me it's because of the perks the teachers' union negotiates for those lazy teachers, because I KNOW my kids' teachers roll back a hefty portion of their pay buying kleenex and markers and folders and hole-punches and other things that should be provided for them without reams of red tape to discourage them from getting what they and the students need.

But here's the other secret: The stadium and the natatorium will make the older residents of the district happy because it will remind them that they get something from the school district even though their kids are grown. But does it have to be this way? How about if we remind them that a good school district helps maintain their property values? School are more than just community centers. They are supposed to be places of learning for the children of our community.

Why can't we remember that? Why must the real needs of the kids always come in last in the list of priorities?

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

And another thing!

One of my colleagues came to pitch a situation to me that I have to admit I had never encountered in all my career in the classroom.

"One of my students has informed me that she no longer wants to be referred to by feminine pronouns. Instead, she wants to be addressed by masculine pronouns. How would you handle it?" asked my friend.

I see the difficulty. Of course, one wants to be absolutely sensitive and respectful of students and their situations, but when one is in the middle of teaching, and the flow of information is coming fast and furious, one could slip up. A lot.

I asked if she had changed her name, too, or wanted that changed, and he said no. So... Here's what I suggested:

Certainly agree to do one's very best to accommodate the student's request, a long as the kiddo understands that we are only human and we may accidentally slip up every now and then. Then refer to the young lady either in first person ("Jamie, you forgot your book,") when using pronouns or just refer to the young lady by name whenever possible.

Then try to keep this in the forefront of one's brain while tying to do the twenty-two other tasks one juggles while attempting to teach a class of teenagers.


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tuesday Musing 7: Parent conference follies

For your consideration: What is the craziest thing that has ever happened at parent teacher conferences for you?

Mine involved a mother, an elf costume, and a potential strangling of a staff member. Anyone got one?


Monday, October 18, 2010

If it's a pretend administrator, is it a real observation?

We have the most wonderfullest idea that has been created by our district administration this year, and it has had amusingly unforeseen consequences for Ms. Cornelius.

Here's the deal: the Powers That Be have revived the farcical "Leadership Cadre." What might this be, you ask? Well, remember that our district has an absolutely stellar record of hiring district employees for administration jobs-- and by stellar I imply events so rare as to be separated by light-years.

But wait! Let's get some teachers who have administrative certification-- and frankly, no hope in hell of actually being hired-- fill in when one of our peripatetic assistant principals gets to go jaunting off to a conference in Orlando or Bimini or Noo Yawk. Boom! Voila! "Leadership Cadre!" These chumps members of the Leadership Cadre will then garner administrative experience. Forget that whilst these ersatz nabobs are substitute nabobing, they will not be fulfilling the function for which they were hired and for which a school district exists: namely, teaching students. No; let the students eat substitutes!

Now, there is one particular dewy-eyed dreamer who leapt at this chance-- whom I will call "Bob," since "Sawed-Off Runt" seems far too brutal, if apropos. I can see the attraction of administration for Bob. He only puts eight grades in the gradebook per semester as it is, but if he becomes an AP he has figured out that that number will drop to zero. And that's less, right? (Did I mention Bob teaches math?)

So the other day, there was Bob be-bopping around in his little pressed suit, haunting the hallways for something to do that didn't actually involve confronting the fifteen kids he passed who didn't have passes and weren't in class. How do I know this? Because when I first spotted him I was performing administrative duties myself against my will instead of being able to work with students, which is a story for another day.

So Bob disappeared from my radar screen while I dealt with the crew of Skippies he had so assiduously failed to recognize. Quelle suprise, his absence from my notice didn't last long.

Later on I am standing in front of a class of frolicksome students, discussing the current situation in the Sudan before we got ready for a quiz, when suddenly Bob materializes on my doorstep. 'Pon my honor, he actually opened with the gambit of "Whatcha doin'?"

Let's see: kids, in desks, hands raised, synapses firing. Adult in front of room in comfortable shoes and khakis, pointing at map. What does it look like I'm doing?

And it got worse from there. HE. WOULDN'T. LEAVE. He peered at my learning goals on the board. He hemmed. He hawed. He cleared his throat unctuously. He struggled to come up with some sort of pedagogic nugget of wisdom, but lapsed into straightening his tie for the fourteenth time. He called out the names of kids he knew like a late-night caller to a radio request show. His fidgetty presence halted the momentum of the Ship of Knowledge we had been sailing more thoroughly than a German torpedo fired at the Lusitania. The kids were fascinated by his flitting about the room-- they couldn't help it.

After he finally skedaddled for parts unknown, I resumed doing that strange thing he didn't recognize for the sad remnant of the class period. It wasn't until lunch that I realized the little blister had been attempting to observe me.

And he may beat those odds in terms of getting a full-time gig. He has "administrator" written all over him. All I know is that my students learned less, and he undoubtedly learned nothing.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Of fires and fees and taxes

I have been following the evolving story of Gene Crannick, the rural Tennessee man who made the news when a nearby fire department watched while his trailer burned because he hadn't paid a $75 fee.

If you haven't been following this story, here's a pretty good summary of the debate, and you can find video of an interview with the homeowner on the web. Try this site from yahoo news for the summary.

Here's my take. First of all, this county's residents have chosen not to tax themselves to provide fire protection. We can see from this example how wonderful it is to live like our Founding Fathers did, as the Tea Partiers love to reminisce about. Two centuries ago, in the time of our Founding Fathers, there were no professional fire departments and it was not seen as the government's responsibility to provide fire protection (my alter ego, the History Geek, would like to remind you that the first US fire department was established in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin, but the first professional fire department was established in Cincinnati in 1853. At left, you can see an image from Franklin's attempt to encourage colonial unity and mutual aid in 1754). One could even argue that the Founding Fathers' vision of government did not include services like police protection, sanitation and sewage services, water purification, immunizations against smallpox and influenza, and a host of other things we moderns take for granted as being provided for us.

If your neighbor's house caught fire two centuries ago, hopefully you and your other neighbors would get together to try to put out the fire, although frankly that didn't work too well. That's why there are now professional fire departments. And it requires tax money to pay for them. Heck, it requires tax money to pay for volunteer fire departments, because there really is no such thing as a "bucket brigade" any more. Fighting fires requires expensive equipment and maintenance of that equipment. Once again, this must be paid for collectively by the community in the form of taxes.

Now, getting back to the situation at hand, Mr. Crannick claims to have "forgotten" to pay his fee that stands in lieu of a tax.

I wonder if the fact that this charge was called a "fee" rather than a tax makes any difference? It is called a "fee" because the town does not have jurisdiction to tax Mr. Crannick, and because payment is voluntary. That also means that they have no obligation to provide services to Mr. Crannick, as a non-fee-payer. Since 1990, the nearby town has offered to absorb the risk of fighting fires for those who lived in the county, IF they were willing to pay a fee. And this is an important distinction that needs to be made. The county residents chose not to tax themselves to provide fire protection, and it sounds like some of the residents expected to be able to mooch off those who did pay the tax in the event that tragedy struck.

Simply applying logical principles, and leaving morality out of the discussion for a moment, let us consider: seventy-five dollars obviously does not even begin to cover the cost of fighting a fire. Depending upon where Mr. Crannick lives, it may not even cover the cost of the fuel to get the fire truck to his house. So obviously, the only way that the fee is going to actually induce the neighboring town to offer fire protection for those outside its limits is if every person who wishes to have service will pay the fee even if that person doesn't happen to have a house on fire at the time. This is basically an insurance policy, if you will, and the way that works is that as many people as possible share the risk, and probably pay for something that hopefully they will never have to actually use. And by the way, in the interview I watched, Mr. Crannick admitted this was not the first time he or one of his family members had "forgotten" to pay this fee. The last time it happened, Mr. Crannick's family member HAD been allowed to pay the fee on the spot and the house fire was extinguished.

I have a feeling that Mr. Crannick didn't really "forget" after an experience like that. I have a feeling he felt that he could continue to ignore the real purpose of the fee and just pay on the spot if a member of his household caused another fire, which is exactly what indeed did happen. I guarantee that the residents of the town with the fire department pay far more annually than $75 for fire protection, and I would hope that he would recognize that. I wonder if he didn't deliberately choose not to pay the fee, thinking that he had gamed the system.

I fear that this situation may end up being more common, if certain anti-tax groups get their way. Eventually, if we lower taxes enough, services will have to be cut, and to restore them one will have to pay a fee, voluntarily. But is this a good thing? Not for "forgetful" people or for poor people or for even clumsy people who set their yards on fire when they don't have fire protection. You will have freedom, all right-- including the freedom to watch your house burn down in exchange for that freedom from taxation which the self-satisfied members of the Tea Party-- and perhaps Mr. Crannick himself-- so tragically misinterpret.

But seriously, in my vision of a just society, we live in communities, and we look out for each other. We support each other, in part by paying taxes to provide good things-- I would go so far as to call them necessary things. To be specific, I mean good things such as police and fire protection, sanitation, good roadways and good schools and safe water and a host of other beneficial things-- all paid for by taxes. In my perfect society, we balance individualistic concerns and self-interest (the part of us that says, "I don't want to pay taxes") with the benefit of being members of a civilized society (the part of us that says, "I want security and companionship and shared identity"). And my vision of this society goes back to, indeed, one of our Founding Fathers-- Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay colony.

In 1630, John Winthrop wrote these words as he approached the new English settlements in America and pondered how the members of a successful settlement that claimed to be founded upon the laws of God should behave:

"....We must be knit together, in this work, as one man. We must entertain each other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." Just a few lines later, Winthrop compared this new America to a "city on a hill" that would be an example for the world. This image is so famous and familiar that it has been quoted numerous times by presidents and statesmen, including that crusading icon of the anti-taxers, Ronald Reagan.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall once famously stated, "The power to tax is the power to destroy." This is certainly so in some cases, like cigarette taxes and fuel taxes and "sin" taxes on alcohol. In the case of Mr. Crannick, however, the refusal or failure to pay a tax (alternative) led to destruction. If this is a vision of the future that sounds good to you, then by all means, support the vision of limited government that this story describes.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


A federal judge has blocked the Obama administration from enforcing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding the service of gay men and women in the military.

I stopped and re-read that sentence, and threw up a little in my mouth. The mere fact that I could write "Obama" and "enforcing Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would almost make me question my sanity-- until I start recounting the countless other ways this administration has failed to have the cojones to stand up for what is right in some crazy quest to somehow gain bipartisan support for ANYTHING from a party implacably committed to that same administration's failure.

(And let's not even get into the decision announced today that an administration run by a former law school professor is appealing on behalf of the Defense of Marriage Act when marriage has traditionally been under the purview of the states.)

I'm sorry Mr. President, and this is coming from a friend -- albeit a disappointed one. Guess what? They're never going to love you. They're never going to even LIKE you. There's a goodly percentage of them who are pretty certain to always despise you for your name and for your racial background, besides whatever you might do. They're never going to be convinced that you are anything but a black radical Muslim sleeper agent born in Kenya. Here's your chance to BE bipartisan and steal a page from the other guy's playbook by standing up for a truly conservative, libertarian principle: keeping government out of one's private life.

So here's the story:
A federal judge has issued a worldwide injunction stopping enforcement of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, ending the military's 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips' landmark ruling Tuesday was widely cheered by gay rights organizations that credited her with getting accomplished what President Obama and Washington politics could not.

U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have 60 days to appeal. Legal experts say the department is under no legal obligation to do so and could let Phillips' ruling stand.

Phillips declared the law unconstitutional after a two-week trial in federal court in Riverside. The case was brought about by the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans.

The fact that it took a group of Republicans (albeit far from typical ones) to call the administration's bluff just makes this all the more incredible.

This policy has been a failure since its inception. It has robbed our armed forces of loyal and dedicated patriots willing to put their lives on the line for their country in a way that few of their critics have done. We have lost translators and bomb-sniffing dog handlers and a host of other critical specialists-- all based upon rumor and innuendo and a host of dire, insane "what-ifs" that would make Glenn Beck proud.

Here's a chance for President Obama to show some backbone, and actually deliver on something he has pledged to do. And this judge has now made it easy for him.

So let me be direct: Man up, President Obama. It's time to do the right thing because it is right. It is not the time to take surveys or ask permission: you are the commander-in-chief.

Here's something to make it easier for you, too: I'll help you find just the right wording for an executive order. See if this sounds right:

"Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity In the Armed Forces.

WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:

NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.

2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.

3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the Armed Services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.

4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.

5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.

6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive order."

Sound good? Simple, straightforward, and, if you are a History Geek, familiar.

Well, guess what? Except for the addition of the words "sexual orientation," this is exactly the text of Executive Order 9981, which was signed by President Harry S Truman on July 26, 1948, in order to desegregate the military. The same Harry Truman who fired one of the most popular generals in the US Army because he was insubordinate, in order to make clear that civilians run our military, and not the other way around.

Just ask yourself, Mr. Obama: What Would Truman Do?

What WOULD Truman Do???

President Truman wouldn't wait to see what the Senate says. President Truman wouldn't wait to see what the survey says like some farcical version of "Family Feud." And yes, he took his licks for it. But in the end, he has been adjudged one of the greatest presidents in the history of our great country.

It's not just a Democratic thing to do. Even Barry Goldwater, the Father of Modern Conservatism, eventually decided that homophobia and discrimination against gays, including in the military,* was wrong by 1994. That should help with your longing for bipartisanship.

So, helped by the cover of a court order, go ahead and issue that Presidential Order. It'll make you look presidential. And BE presidential. But perhaps you claim that Congress has somehow made it impossible to issue a presidential order-- a claim I find to be difficult to believe. But okay-- if that's the case, stop claiming that enforcing this order will cause "irreparable harm" to our military readiness if in the same breath you claim that you will end this policy "on your watch." Don't appeal the court order ending something you say is wrong. Your administration has done this over and over, and it just makes you appear to be a hypocrite.

* -- From a 1994 interview with the Washington Post: "So how did this super-patriot, former fighter pilot and retired Air Force general get involved in gay rights?

'The first time this came up was with the question, should there be gays in the military?" Goldwater says. "Having spent 37 years of my life in the military as a reservist, and never having met a gay in all of that time, and never having even talked about it in all those years, I just thought, why the hell shouldn't they serve? They're American citizens. As long as they're not doing things that are harmful to anyone else. ... So I came out for it.'"


Holy Guacamole! Michelle Rhee resigns!

Hot off the wire this morning came the news that DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has resigned.

My first reaction was, "oh, look, another example of her not being able to stick with one thing for more than a couple of years," but then I thought, "what am I saying????"

Apparently the writing was on the wall when her partner in crime Adrian Fenty lost the primary for mayor earlier this year in DC.

From the edweek blog "District Dossier" by Dakarai Aarons:

District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee announced this morning that she is resigning after three and a half years in the job.

"I put my blood, sweat, and tears into the children of the District of Columbia," Rhee told a news conference. She thanked the parents in the district, as well as the teachers, with whom she has frequently had a contentious relationship.

Rhee said she hadn't determined her next step but planned to take "a little time off." Her goal, she said, was to serve the children of this nation.

She is confident, she said, that the policy changes she pushed during her tenure would continue after she departs, including the implementation of a new teacher contract and new teacher evaluation system.

"The best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside," Rhee said. She added, "this was not a decision we made lightly."

You can follow the link to read the whole thing.

It will be very interesting to see what exactly WILL happen now that Rhee's tenure has come to an end. I imagine she will not stay out of the limelight for too long, either, since there are speeches to be made and book contracts probably waiting to be signed. She will doubtless continue her teacher-bashing ways, because that's what both parties in politics have seized upon rather than actually look at the other side of the performance question-- and by that I specifically mean everything from administrative disconnects to unmotivated family and students as well as poor curriculum sacrificed on the altar of testing. I could go on, but I think you get my drift.

Adios, Ms. Rhee. I doubt we've seen the last of you.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The blind man and the elephant

Yes, we have a new assistant principal. In this case, "new" actually does mean "two seconds older than a biscuit." Now, listen, everybody has to start somewhere, but so far, his naïveté is more startling than a nudist at an Amish barn raising.

Cases in point: he keeps inventing forms to fill out and reminds us every other day to visit the school wiki. Worse, he's making the secretaries crazy-- and anyone who knows anything knows that if the secretaries ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy. Including me.

I am glad he's so enthusiastic. No, wait--I'm lying. And furthermore, I have to work on my resentment of the fact that he makes me feel about a hundred years old.

But when he insinuated that I should have somehow known that a student was gay from her appearance I did fix him with the Eye of Fury and gently but firmly suggest that judging kids based on appearance would make us no better than our students. Not to mention that if you make a big deal about something, you often imply that there is something WRONG with it. Not that there is anything wrong with it, as the line goes. I mean, I am pretty well known on campus, but I certainly don't know every kid on campus, much less the intimate details of their lives when I do not know them at all. This guy has nearly made me say, "Now listen here, sonny...." about seven times a week since school began.

And I am NOT that old.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

There ain't no way in heck.

So apparently, the latest qualification to be considered an excellent teacher is to give kids and parents one's cell phone number so that they can reach you at any time.

TFA says we should do it. Michelle Rhee says we should do it.

Well, to subside into my Okie lingo, I ain't doin' it.

Here's the deal: I pay for my cell phone with my own money. It is not subsidized by the district. I got it when I had kids of my own so that I could be able to be in touch in case of an emergency. I do not give out my cell number to just anyone. Now, in a moment of weakness, I gave the thing to my principal, but so far the only thing that has happened is that she gave my number to a flunky at the district offices who needed to apologize to me (it's a loooong story). That, and I did exchange numbers with Good AP so I could tease him about football, and that's been fun.

But back to the point. Apparently, there is the educational equivalent of the "Madonna/whore" complex going on right now in the criticism of American teachers. Either you are a self-abnegating martyr who has no personal life nor has any right to expect one, or you are a tenured, lazy vampire sucking life from the government teat who has no concern about your students. It's like we're living in 1922 all over again. My grandma was a teacher in 1922. She had to live with a family in town so that she could be chaperoned. It was required that she be a member of the Baptist Church in the tiny Oklahoma town in which she was employed as well as a Sunday school teacher (2 for the price of 1!!!) and God help her if she didn't attend church every Sunday. Once she got married to grandpa, she had to quit. She had no privacy, she had no independence, she had no options.

Students and parents, I do not live in 1922. I will work my butt off for you during the school day and for an hour thereafter. I am available every day after school and I have a class website. But when I do leave school, I am now on family and personal time. You have no right to my cell phone number or to my personal email. You can already reach me during the work day. And that doesn't mean that I don't care deeply about my students. But I refuse to just go along with the current conundrum facing the American worker over productivity. I am extremely productive during the day. But I am just as certain that that productivity entitles me to some time on my own during the time I am not on the clock. This includes, weekends, evenings, and summer-- all of which is unremunerated free time. I get no paid vacation and two personal days. And I am fine with this-- until you decide it's your right to encroach upon that too. It's like that phrase from the labor unions of the 1880s: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what I will."

The only reason why students or parent would need my personal cell number 24-7 is if the student themselves are either overscheduled or are putting off doing my assignments until late at night. And in either case, the solution is not in my hands. I also have a life. I also have a family. And they serve some consideration, too.

I tell you what: when the principals and administrators give me and the parents their cell phone numbers (on their taxpayer-supplied cell phones), I may reconsider. But I doubt it.


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