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

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tips for new administrators (or any bosses who want some honest feedback)

Summer's lease hath all too short a date... and that saying carries extra poignancy in the NCLB-era. I don't know about you, but since the passage of No Child Left Behind, the state in which I live has moved back the starting time for the school year by nearly three weeks so that we have more time with students before the all-important tests and the assessment of Adequate Yearly Progress began shooting skyward like a Saturn-V rocket. 'Tis a brave soul indeed who is willing to wade into the area of administration in this day and age. 'Ats off to ya, guv'nah!

So after several requests, I am here offering suggestions for administrators to go along with my post of suggestions for new teachers. Suggestions from others are always welcome and will be included, so this post will be revised as we go along. Call it "The Carnival of Administration!" So, since my first suggestion has to do with not wasting time, let's get right on with it.

1. Have meetings only if you have something to say. Holding meetings for the sake of holding meetings, or to show the higher-ups that you hold regular meetings, wastes valuable time for everyone. This is especially important in the days before the school year actually starts. Teachers are trying to get their classrooms ready-- sometimes after the summer maintenance staff has broken or misplaced half of their belongings-- and the last thing they need is for you to read a Powerpoint presentation to them like they are preschoolers.

And how do you find something to say? Walk out amongst us, into the school, into the classroom, into the hallways. Stay current on what's going on in education. Ask people what they need and what they think. Then take that seriously.

2. Telling a room full of people you appreciate them is very nice indeed. Telling five individuals on your staff you appreciate something specific they have done is far nicer.

Of course it requires more work, not to mention attention to detail. But consider what you ask your teachers and staff to do in the course of every school day. This can be done. It SHOULD be done. And it shouldn't be done just to people who hang around your office. This behavior also shows that you know what is going on in the classrooms and hallways.

3. Especially if you are new to a district or to a building, decide on three to five things you want to change. State the change you want to accomplish in manageable, measurable terms. Then do everything you can to help make the change happen. Nothing is more maddening than for an administrator to emerge from her office as if awakening from hibernation, blinking against the glare of the light, and then sally forth through the building at full speed, dropping commands like scented hankies in Scarlett O'Hara's wake. After all, tomorrow IS another day.

Pick which things are really important to you. You don't have to change everything overnight, even if you are walking into the loosest ship in the fleet. People need to feel that they are successful at adjusting to a new leader's way of doing things. A never-ending list of demands makes your staff feel as if they can never accomplish what you want, and they can never make you happy. If this happens, they will either eventually a) subside into a sullen, mutinous silence in your presence if you are lucky, or, b) erupt into loud, openly mutinous displeasure and write you off as a crazed Captain Queeg.

And by the way, you should watch the following films for instructional purposes on what NOT to do: The Caine Mutiny, Mr. Roberts, and Office Space, especially if you don't know who Captain Queeg is.

4. Hold all teachers (and students) to the same standards. If you decide that ending tardiness is one of your priorities, and then you let one teacher make kids late routinely, you will not only erode your chances of changing the problem of tardiness, you will erode your chances of making the staff believe in any other changes you want to make.

5. Know the behavior guide. If there are rules in there you will not enforce, get rid of them. Then follow the behavior guide when dealing with discipline. And enforce it with all students.

6. If you are new, you will have a treasure bank of goodwill from which to draw. You can build on this to accomplish great things by being proactive, by being groundedly optimistic, by listening attentively, by adopting an attitude of cooperation. You only get one chance to make a first impression, but you can ruin your reputation over and over.

7. Just as the best teachers get the students to help manage the classroom and encourage a classroom emphasis on learning, the best administrators get teachers to help make their jobs easier by feeling actively involved in the operation of the school and knowing that their contributions are valued. In a well run school, administrators don't even have to think of micromanaging. Look for the teachers who not only love the kids but who make the kids work. Cultivate these as your advisors and "go-to" people. Be wary of sycophants. Realize that we are all pulling together. If we don't, we'll never get anywhere. Much less at ramming speed.

8. Purge the following sayings from your vocabulary. Actually, don't even think them:
"Bring 'em on!"
"It's my way or the highway."
"Make my day."
"I'm the decider."
"It's not about the teaching."
"Let them eat cake!"
"Do as I say, not as I do."

9. Keep the lines of communication open. Keep the office door open. Answer emails promptly. Seek feedback. Return phone calls.

Make eye contact when a staff member is speaking to you. We know when you're reading your email instead of listening, even if it's over the phone.

If the only time you ever speak to teachers is when you want to correct them, you have a problem.

9a. Never spend the day speaking only to other administrators. Do not allow administrators to stand in a huddle in the hallways ignoring what is going on around them. Don't erect an impenetrable barricade through the strategic use of a secretary or voicemail. A defensive posture is NEVER a winning posture.

10. Mundane things can make you look really smart:
Have someone proofread any written communication that is issued from your office to the staff, and especially that which will go out into the community.
Never promise to provide anything until you already have it on hand.
Before meetings, make sure there are working batteries in the microphone and in the remote.
Try to provide sustenance on Open House or Conference nights-- calorically and emotionally.
Have a sense of humor about yourself. Laugh! Helping kids learn is a joy!
Don't have nicer furniture than your teachers, and then claim that you understand our hardships.

11. Know what you are asking your teachers to do. Know the general socioeconomic background of the school population. At the end of the day, we are people who haven't had five minutes to call our own all day. Recognize that. Give us five minutes to go to the can and stretch out the kinks before starting the after school staff meeting.

12. Ultimately, it IS about the teaching. That is the thing you are there to enable. It's not about the budget, or about the football team, or about enlarging your kingdom or moving up to superintendent.

13. Finally, if you didn't like teaching, or if you weren't good at it, for God's sake, don't become an administrator!!!!! And especially, never, never allow yourself to be afraid of a student.

Enjoy the school year!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gut Check

So you know I've been working most of the summer to lose some weight and get in shape. I'm not able to work out as much now that school is starting again, but I still have received some complements from coworkers for looking less massive. I've lost three pants sizes, and I know there's a ways to go, but still, it's progress.

But here's a conversation with my mother, who's visiting:

Scene: I walk out in dress clothes to head to work.

Madre: When was the last time you were checked by a doctor?
Moi: June, Mom.
Madre: Well, I want you to get some blood work. You look like someone I know who just had a ten pound tumor removed from their abdomen.

Yup. THERE'S a confidence builder for ya. I know that that poem about being an old lady who wears purple basically says that one can say and do whatever one wants, but, um.... really... that stung.

Well, must go now. I and my tumor are going to be late to "Meet the Teacher" Night.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 125: English major edition

Back to school time has descended upon us, and so I've decided to go literary for this MMM. Guys: this isn't a chick flick. This is a chance to drool over Keira Knightley. Plus it's gorgeously scripted and photographed. And I chose this movie because this week we had our twentieth anniversary, and there is this line:

"Have you no consideration for my poor nerves?"
"You mistake me, my dear. I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They've been my constant companion these twenty years."

My husband laughs too heartily at that line. I think I've been insulted. But put your quotes from the movie-- or the book-- in the comments section!

"It's been many years since I had such an exemplary vegetable."

"I could more easily forgive his vanity had he not wounded mine."

"Did I just agree to dance with Mr. Darcy?"
"I dare say you will find him amiable."
"It would be most inconvenient since I have sworn to loathe him for all eternity."

"I love you. Most ardently. Please do me the honor of accepting my hand."
"Sir, I appreciate the struggle you have been through, and I am very sorry to have caused you pain. Believe me, it was unconsciously done."

"Good grief, woman. Your skills in the art of matchmaking are positively occult."

And go! And if that means to go to Netflix to help yourself out, then do so! Trust me.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tips for new teachers: an oldie but a goodie

I posted this waaaaay back in June of 2006, and it has been around for awhile. But the advice still holds true. So here it is again. Best wishes and love to you on a new school year-- and it may be a long time before you hear that again, sad to say.

I imagine that there are scads of people out there in the world who have gotten the happy news that they have been hired for the upcoming school year. There are more hopefuls who are currently undergoing that agony known as interviewing as they search for their first teaching contract.

Therefore, I feel that it is my duty as an official Wizened Veteran of the Classroom (I prefer this term to Ancient Hidebound Broad) to share the knowledge I have gained through sweat, toil, and personal peril lo, these many years, as a lion-tamer pedagogue. Several of my edusphere friends have also generously contributed their insight. This post has now become a kind of "Carnival of Classroom Survival," in fact!

First, oh paduan, consider classroom management.

Have only the rules you are willing to consistently enforce, and consistently enforce the rules you have. Have general classroom expectations written up in a succinct style, avoiding "Don't"s, and hand them out the first day of school. Try to keep the expectations to five.

Post the learning goal and agenda for the day on the board every day. Include homework to be assigned and due date.

Never threaten a consequence to a student unless you are actually willing to follow through with it. This is vital in making your life easier for the rest of the year. You must be a person of your word.

Write referrals only after you have attempted lesser consequences, including privately conferencing with the student and calling the student's guardian. If the student is displaying certain kinds of emotional outbursts which seem "over the top" or otherwise unwarranted, you might also consider a non-discipline referral to the counselor, if you have access to them. You will earn the disdain of your administrators if you write up students without following these steps first. Furthermore, some administrators will use your "failure" to attempt to deal with the situation yourself as an excuse to refuse to act upon their part. Linda adds: "Read the student discipline code, and frame any disciplinary referrals in EXACTLY those words. I failed to do this last year, in a new school, and didn't realize that the magic word (level 2 offense) was "disrespectful". When that word was used, the administration acted."

Keep track of each attempt you have made to deal with a difficulty. When the Wizened Veteran was starting out, she kept a binder divided by class period, with a sheet for each student she had had to discipline. I have also used a computer, but a binder is more portable. Whether on paper or on computer, this is an easy reference to use, but keep it secure. I did not fill this out in front of the students.

Don't be afraid to call guardians. If you call a guardian and only get an answering machine or voicemail, leave a message for the guardian asking him or her to call in a pleasantly neutral voice and record when you did this. Don't get into the gory details in a message.

Before calling, find out what the name of the student's guardian is, and what relationship that person has to the student. Don't assume that they share a last name or that they are necessarily the mother or father. Loads of kids are being raised by grandparents, aunts, and even older siblings. In fact, as mister teacher relates, don't make assumptions based on appearance about guardians upon meeting them, either. Everyone used to think that my mother was my grandmother, for instance, because she was older than the other parents. Another teacher adds, "Not all teachers have to worry about this, but in addition to finding out who lives at home, etc, I have to find out what language they speak so I can have an interpreter ready if the need be." This is also something which is a consideration more often than you might think. Of course, I once had a kid whose parents spoke Russian, so there wasn't much help there. For that problem, I have two words for you: Babel Fish. You can type text in and get a pretty reasonable translation back in all kinds of languages. I have used it with great success.

Aprilmay also has an excellent suggestion: "Find the adult who has the most influence on the child when you need to deal with serious issues. It can take some work, but oftentimes a "Nana" or favorite auntie can work wonders when it comes to motivation!" I have had hardened thugs who quaked in the face of a harsh word from Gramma.

Start your conversation by expressing your faith in the student to resolve the issue. Try, "Hello Mrs. Pzzlethwt? I am Junior Pzzlethwt's math teacher at Extraordinary High School. How are you today?"

Then, remember, a gentle word turns away wrath, as this lovely lady once demonstrated. Euphemisms are your friend! "Junior has some exceptional verbal skills, and I was hoping you could help me in persuading him to use them at the correct time." (This means Junior never shuts up.) Always remark that you know Junior has the potential to do better, and thank the guardian for their help in advance.

Don't ever get into a contest of wills with a parent or a student. They don't have to agree with you-- as in, your attitude should calmly be, "You don't have to agree with me, but this is what will happen..." And sorry to say, guardians get to be rude to you with few consequences, but you will be nailed if you are rude to them.

Script the basic gist of what is said during the phone call, and keep that in your binder, along with time and date of call. I once pulled this out when a parent insisted I call her from the principal's office, and very mildly read back to her her own words which she was denying. She had been insisting that I had never contacted her about her darling's difficulty. When she saw that I had a record of every conversation, complete with time and duration of call, she gave up. As our friend nyc educator points out, this also helps cover one's posterior with one's administrators.

Emails, if you have the means, are even better, but still be diplomatic in your wording, because, remember, emails can be forwarded a million times over without your knowledge. And keep a copy of the email you sent-- I printed them out and saved them in the binder.

Start the class on time. Do not cheat the students who are on time in the name of stragglers who stumble in tardy.

Model good behavior. I personally say please and thank you to my students. I somehow have difficulty hearing students who do not extend the same courtesy to me. It's a very strange form of deafness.

Try to get the students on your side when it comes to classroom management. It is actually much more effective if a student knows that his peers will not tolerate his goofing off or disrupting class.

Graycie has another good point: "Walk out amongst'em. Sometimes just standing next to a kid and smiling without breaking the flow of what you are saying to the whole class will stop her dead in her tracks." Slowly move around the room, if your instruction permits it. It will keep all the students on their toes, encourage participation, and keep heads from drooping.

Mr. Lawrence, a sub (who has disappeared from the blogosphere much to the detriment of all), makes an excellent suggestion to which I personally adhere. Consider placing your desk at the backs of your students. This enables you to see what is going on unobtrusively. Students will realize this and they will stay on task with much less prompting. Our district has laptop computers that the students can use. With my desk behind the students, I can view screens easily to see what exactly they're looking at on the 'net- whether they're actually doing research or if they're trying to IM their friends or access Facebook.

Keep the students engaged until the bell rings. Remember, you-- NOT the bell-- dismiss the class. Otherwise, each day the students will knock off a bit earlier.

Our friend, compadre and all around great guy Mike in Texas reminds us, "Trust, but verify." When a child claims that she has done the technicolor yawn, tossed his cookies, ralphed, whatever-- make sure she has. Oh, and watch for the finger-down-the-throat trick before a quiz or test.

And seriously, if a student feels ill, goes to the restroom, and doesn't come back in four or five minutes, send a trustworthy kid of the same gender to go check on her. She may have passed out in there, or she may be scamming and roaming the halls. In either case, you want to know.

Darren adds: "'Without' is a powerful word. When giving instructions, simultaneously tell students what you want them to do (using concrete terms) and what you don't want them to do. 'Please open your textbooks to page 73 without talking.' Telling students to "be quiet" doesn't work; telling them what to do (take out your textbooks) and what not to do (without talking) does. Give it a try!"

Now, let us consider supplies.

Part of your job as a teacher is to reinforce a burgeoning sense of personal responsibility in your young charges.

If you keep pencils or pens on your desk, they will disappear. If you can afford this, fine. However, a word of warning. If you consistently give out pencils or paper or whatever, expect your students to regularly come to class without them, knowing that you will remove this responsibility from their shoulders. Your choice. I use very bizarre novelty pens for myself, and anyone trying to cadge one of these would be busted immediately.

Same thing with textbooks. If you give out textbooks to those who do not bring theirs, soon no one will bring their texts to class. If you want to distribute ten of them every class period and lose five minutes of teaching time, that's your choice, but plan accordingly. Make sure you take them up at the end of the period (another five minutes lost there) or you will be missing a whole slew of books by the third week of school. And while you're managing this distribution, what are the other students doing?

I like keeping a little box of golf pencils in my desk for those who cannot master their writing utensil management skills. Students tend not to want to borrow these more than once. You can also keep a cup of used pencils you have found in the hallway for distribution. I personally also like to have my dog or a convenient toddler to put chew marks on them so they won't be so appealing to those who seem need some assistance from St. Anthony of Padua in this regard.

On the other hand, be on the lookout for a student who cannot afford supplies. I often claim to have "found" spirals or pencils for these students lying around unclaimed in my classroom, and privately let them know what a favor they would be doing me if they could possibly put them to use instead of forcing me to harm the environment by discarding them. These items are often found for sale in bulk at the end of July through the first few days of September. You can often buy spirals for a dime-- those that are sold this way are called "loss-leaders" because the supply stores take a beating on them to get you into the store. I buy about thirty for myself each year, and those I don't use, I donate to a needy school affiliated with my house of worship.

Q's personal legend has a neat system: "I also have a station in the room for stuff the kids can use: stapler, hand sanitizer, hole punch, kleenex, etc. And, (you will laugh), I made large magic marker outlines of these things on the table. It looks funny, but the kids always return it to its 'home,' and I don't have to keep saying, 'Where is my stapler?!'"

And, since teachers are often klutzy because we are rushed, and kids are just klutzy in general, I suggest you keep the following things on hand in your desk in a little box (one of my students made one for me): Shout wipes, plug-in air fresheners, odor neutralizer spray, antiperspirant, a needle and some thread, safety pins, peppermints, lotion, astringent, cotton pads (like the ones used by the nurse), latex gloves, bandaids, and a flashlight with working batteries. I once had the power go out for TWO HOURS in a room with no windows. And we were instructed to keep the kids in the room while they tried to fix it. Fun.

Now, let's deal with presentation and attitude.

Boy Scout motto? Be prepared. Teacher motto? OVERPLAN. Always have more activities on hand than you can possibly use in a class period.

Have a sense of humor. Be willing to laugh gently at yourself. Self-deprecation goes a long way to establishing a sense of rapport with your students.

Keep a folder on your desk in case you ever need a sub. I label it "SUB FOLDER" in really large, bright letters. Include in it your classroom expectations, UPDATED seating charts, complete with pronunciation guides if needed, and an emergency lesson for each class in case you get hit by a runaway oxcart on the way to work and have no chance to send in real lesson plans. Make it simple, but interesting. Mr. Lawrence, who works as a substitute, echoes this advice. You cannot expect the students to read quietly for two hours for a sub. (There are all kinds of books in the bookstore or classroom supply stores that have suggestions for cute little activities, if your brain is befuddled.) I usually include at least one activity which must be turned in by the end of class to keep the students occupied. Once again, OVERPLAN, leaving the sub the option of granting the students a reprieve on a deadline or on an assignment if they behave superbly. Carrots and sticks, people, is better when you've need more carrot rather than more stick. In the classroom expectations, you would be wise to spell out your policies on quizzes and tests, such as "All quizzes are to be done individually by the students, not as group work or in 'Jeopardy' format." I have had subs who have allowed students to use their books on unit tests or to do them as a group. No kidding.

Always err toward joking rather than bitching with your coworkers. You make a first impression only once, but you can ruin your reputation over and over.

Spangles, one of our colleagues, notes, "Eat lunch with your colleagues. It builds bonds, lets you form a friendly relationship, and gets you out of the classroom for at least a few minutes. You might give it up later, but it's a worth a start. I was a young new teacher and I formed a strong bond with my older, wiser team members because I ate lunch with them each and every day. It made it easier to laugh at myself and my students." Excellent advice. Your colleagues are your lifeline.

However, unless you have the metabolism of a three-year-old, avoid cafeteria food and bring your lunch. Cafeteria food includes a percentage of fat and amount of calories geared toward growing young bodies. If you don't want a widening older body, stay away from the ersatz nachos and mystery meat chili and the turkey burgers. But don't skip lunch.

Do not get angry, and strive not to take things personally. If the kids know they can provoke you, they will try to do it at every opportunity. Remember the scene in Finding Nemo when Bruce gets a whiff of Dory's blood? Avoid tempting your students in this fashion. I personally get quieter when students are crossing the line. Work on developing a "look" which strikes wrongdoers dumb. Works wonders.

Our colleague Tree_Story adds: "Your best friends can be the custodians and front office secretary. Be courteous and always say thank you and they can make your year soooo much nicer." Happychyck includes the building or district tech person in this golden circle of demigods, and rightly so. I cannot echo this advice enough!

Graycie reminds us: "Never be afraid to say, 'I don't know. How can we find out?'" Then have the students actually find the answer. The goal of teaching students is to enable them to get along without a teacher. Don't just abandon questions they've asked to which you do not know the answer-- these are the questions which have sparked their interest, and a good teacher wants to fan that spark into an inferno.

And finally, consider health maintenance.

Wear comfortable shoes with some support. Teachers have some of the worst back problems of all professions because we spend so much time on our feet. Avoid heels. You will rarely sit down.

Take your vitamins!

Keep yourself hydrated.

You've heard of GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out)? Remember WIWO (Water In, Water Out). Yes, since what goes in must come out, also try to avoid the common teacher pitfall of not going to the can until 4 pm. You will get kidney and bladder problems, and with your insurance, you can't afford that.

Offer students a couple of points of extra credit to bring in two good boxes of tissue at the start of the school year if your school does not provide the good stuff. You'll thank me during flu season.

Have two trash cans in your room: one for student use, and one for you. You'll see why this is health related in a second.

Have two boxes of tissue out at any one time. One box should be hidden away for you, and the used tissues go into your personal trash can, which I stash behind my desk. The other box is for the students, and should be placed away from your desk or where you stand most often in the room. The student trash can goes under this box of tissue, and away from you. You will avoid a LOT of colds this way. Trust me. With your insurance, you can't afford that either, not to mention that it takes FOUR hours to write lesson plans for a seven hour day.

Keep disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer in your desk. Wipe down the surfaces of your desk regularly, including phone, particularly if Mary Typhus, who is hacking up a storm, has just used your phone to talk to her mom. Clean the student desks and the doorknob every once in a while, as well.

Finally, if you are really sick, don't go to school. You will make yourself worse, and end up using the princely number of sick days you have been allotted in one mad swoop.

Well, those are some of my sure-fire, handy dandy tips. If anyone has any others, I'd be glad to add them on with credit given.

Now, go get 'em, Tiger.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

14 year old pleads not guilty in killing of gay classmate

Here's more about the story that was featured in national newsmagazines.

The 14-year-old boy accused of killing eighth-grader Larry King pleaded not guilty Thursday to premeditated murder and a hate crime, charges his attorney said could mean dying in prison unless the youth can be tried on the lesser charge of manslaughter.

"This is essentially a death sentence for Brandon McInerney," defense attorney William "Willy" Quest said after entering a plea of not guilty for his client.

If convicted of manslaughter, McInerney would face a sentence of six to 21 years, Quest said. The murder and hate crime charges McInerney now faces require a minimum of 51 years and a maximum of life with no time off for good behavior, the lawyer said.

McInerney is accused of shooting King on Feb. 12 as students worked on English assignments in a classroom at E.O. Green School in Oxnard. The 15-year-old King died Feb. 14 after being taken off life support.

Although prosecutors have not elaborated on the hate crime charge, the Oxnard youth wore makeup and jewelry and told friends he was gay.

McInerney, who has been held in the county's juvenile hall since his arrest, wore inmates' clothing of a white T-shirt and dark pants when he appeared in the Ventura courtroom.

When Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie asked McInerney if he understood his rights, the boy answered "Yes, sir," in a strong voice.

The teenager's divorced parents, Kendra McInerney and William McInerney, sat in front of the courtroom during the brief proceeding. His mother, visibly upset as she watched her son inside the prisoners' holding area, hurried out of the courtroom. The boy's father followed. Both declined comment.

The plea came two weeks after the defense lost its challenge of a voter initiative that gave prosecutors sole discretion to file homicide charges in adult court against youths as young as 14. While that ruling is appealed, McInerney continues to face murder charges as an adult.

Brodie set a preliminary hearing for Sept. 23, a date that could be extended by 10 days, but he did not assign the case to a judge.

Assuming a judge finds enough evidence at the hearing to proceed to trial, Quest hopes the trial could begin before McInerney's 15th birthday in January.

If the case were moved to juvenile court, Quest said, he would plead to whatever charge the district attorney wants. The maximum sentence allowed in that court would be confinement in a state youth facility until age 25. Prosecutors say youths who commit homicides are typically paroled after seven years, but Quest said that is unlikely in this case.

If the case stays in adult court, McInerney's only hope is reducing the charge to manslaughter, Quest said.

"That is the only way Brandon does not die in prison," he said.

The District Attorney's Office filed the case in adult court two days after the shooting, and it reaffirmed that position Thursday.

"If we thought it was manslaughter, we would have filed it as manslaughter," Chief Assistant District Attorney James Ellison said. "We believe the crime is charged appropriately."

Ellison said prosecutors considered McInerney's age but are not disclosing why they decided to charge the 14-year-old as an adult. That would involve discussing the facts of the case before the preliminary hearing, he said.

The slain boy's father, Greg King, declined comment on the plea Thursday afternoon, but he said he supports the district attorney's decision to try McInerney for first-degree murder as an adult.

"He went into a classroom in front of other students and shot my son in the back of the head twice," King said. He suggested that the boy's age does not merit lighter treatment.

"My son his dead," he said. "For his age to be taken into consideration — he didn't take my son's age into consideration."

Quest said the shooting was a tragedy, but suggested that sending McInernery to prison for life only compounds it. He has blamed educators at E.O. Green for failing to defuse growing tension leading up to the shooting.

"This is not a complicated case, who did it and the manner of death," he said. "The issue is Brandon's age and what was going on at E.O. Green School."

McInerney feels remorse and does not understand the seriousness of what he's facing, he said.

"Going from being on the beach to being locked in a cage until he dies," Quest said. "It's hard for anyone to contemplate that, much less a 14-year-old."

McInerney is a strong candidate for rehabilitation, something that could be considered in juvenile court, Quest said.

"He was a good kid. I think he would continue to be a good kid."

A jury has the power to convict on a lesser charge of manslaughter, he said, but not if the judge gives instructions that only murder charges can be considered.

Quest returns to court Monday to seek King's records from E.O. Green School and Casa Pacifica, the children's shelter where King was staying at the time of the shooting.

How does a 14 year old put two bullets in the back of a classmate's head? And how does he not understand why he's not "on the beach?" Nice legal ploy, there.

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ROFL! Fantabulous Educat advice for new coworkers!

Mah darlin' Ramblin' Educat hath unleashed the most bodacious, sagacious and probably perspicacious words I have read all month. Ladies and gentlemen, through Educat, I give you this (and add a BIG "AMEN SISTAH!" to it as punctuation):
....And so, new counselor, a choice presents itself to you. Choose carefully, for the road you take at this juncture will define your first year if not your entire time with us here.

You must choose to be either mean or incompetent. You cannot be both.

I'd advise you mull over your options here. If you choose to be mean, it will mean you must be smart. If your job is done to its utmost, I can handle your bitchiness. I would even respect it, because your work will be done and I won't have to speak to you.

Should you choose to be stupid, I can respect that choice as well. Many others have made this choice and if you'll watch the most successful among them, you'll notice that they're kind souls. We smirk sympathetically when we speak of them and shake our heads with a "bless her heart". We help those dumb people. We even love them.

Dumb bitches do not make friends at work. They don't get much respect either. Please be aware that if you choose this option, you will become an object of contempt to many of your co-workers.

The choice, then, is yours. Thank you in advance for allowing this unsolicited advice: Be mean, be dumb. Just be aware that you cannot be both.


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And since I am a Virgo, this makes sense in another way.

Because Virgo's part of the body is the bowels. Get it? (And BTW, WHY????)

You Are a Colon

You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.

You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.

Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)

You excel in: Leadership positions

You get along best with: The Semi-Colon


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Educating rapists on the taxpayer dime

Some of the nation's worst sex offenders will no longer be eligible to receive generous educational financial aid packages while they are confined in treatment centers under a bill approved by Congress.

A little-noticed provision of a broader higher education bill makes such offenders ineligible for Pell Grants, the nation's premier financial aid program for low-income students, starting July 1, 2009.

Both the Senate and the House approved the bill late last week and President Bush is expected to sign it into law.

The Associated Press reported in March that dozens of rapists and child molesters have taken higher education classes at taxpayer expense while confined to treatment centers.

"Today, the most insane wasteful spending program in America comes to an end," Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., said on the House floor Thursday before his plan won approval.

Keller cited the AP report that some offenders were using the financial aid to buy clothes, DVD players and music CDs — sometimes after they dropped their classes.

U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Babyak said she did not know how many such offenders have received Pell Grants and how much the provision would save taxpayers. Keller predicted it would save taxpayers millions.

The provision affects 20 states that allow violent sex offenders to be held indefinitely after they have served their prison sentences because they are likely to re-offend.

Prison inmates are ineligible for Pell Grants under a 1994 law, but sexual predators have qualified once they are transferred from prison to treatment centers.

First, I think we should direct federal financial aid money to people who HAVEN'T committed violent crimes against people. When you consider how much federal aid to deserving students has stagnated and even in some cases decreased in the past twenty years, then you have to say that rapists should be able to be rehabilitated without demanding a free college degree to do it. If law-abiding students were able to get enough aid to meet their needs, then that would be a different story.

The only way I could afford college-- as the first person in my family to attend college-- was through a combination of academic and music scholarships, work study, and loans. Lots and lots of loans. That I then spent ten years paying off while earning a whopping $11,000 a year.

Imagine-- just imagine-- if our government would concentrate its trillions of dollars of spending on programs that actually benefit the citizens, not oil corporations or criminals. But I repeat myself. And I'm sounding like John Lennon.

It's about justice. Justice for those who follow the law and don't hurt people.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

And yet-- I still believe it's wrong.


I have had numerous parents tell me that "everyone does it" and that if I can't give consequences to every kid who cheats, then I shouldn't punish their kid. The words "character," "honesty," and the like are laughed off as at best a quaint notion from bygone days.

In one previous incident, I watched a girl turn her paper so that the boy next to her could copy freely without straining his neck, poor thing. When I told her she got a zero too, she incredulously claimed that she hadn't been cheating. I held my ground with her and with her daddy, and fortunately was backed up by administration.

But the saddest part is that kids who don't bother to learn the material really cheat only themselves. Then they wonder why they struggle.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Teachers as nurses. This is scary.

How would you like to be responsible for carrying out medical procedures on your students?
During the past two school years, teacher Julia Keyse had to enforce an unusual rule in her kindergarten and first-grade classroom: No interrupting while she pricked Caylee's finger to check her blood sugar and adjusted her insulin pump.

"They were so good. They would just sit and wait," Keyse said of her class at Etowah Elementary School in Henderson County, N.C.

It's a task Keyse never imagined when she became a teacher, but medical duties have become a part of the job for educators across the country as schools cut nursing staff or require nurses to work at multiple locations. The change comes at a time when more students are dealing with serious medical conditions, such as severe allergies, asthma and diabetes.

It's a change that's unsettling for teachers, school nurses and parents.

"We don't want to pretend to be doctors or nurses," Keyse said. "I would have gone to school for that."

Federal guidelines recommend that schools employ one nurse for every 750 students, but the national average is one nurse for every 1,151 students, according to Amy Garcia, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses. A quarter of schools in the nation have no school nurse.

Although there is no historical data regarding the number of school nurses nationwide, members of the profession say there are fewer nurses doing more work, while teachers and other school workers pick up the slack. The average nurse splits her time between 2.2 schools, according to the association.

"Teachers deserve a school nurse because their time should be spent teaching," Garcia said.

Meanwhile, the workload of school nurses has increased since 1975, when the federal government mandated that schools accommodate disabled students, clearing the way for children with feeding tubes, catheters and other serious medical conditions to attend school. Today, 16 percent of students have a condition that requires regular attention from the school nurse, Garcia said.

Many parents and school administers don't realize that nurses are handling life-threatening conditions as well as performing vision, health and diabetes screenings, said Barbara Duddy, president of the Tennessee Association of School Nurses in Memphis.

"They think the school nurse is nice little job where you take care of boo-boos," she said. "School nurses work very hard to make sure every child gets exactly what they need."

Garcia blamed shifting priorities, shrinking budgets and a misunderstanding of the school nurse's role for the loss of jobs.

The Southern Humboldt Unified School Board in Garberville, Calif., blamed a reduction in state funding when members voted in June to eliminate one nursing position and reduce the other position to 10 hours a week for the upcoming school year.

"The nurses provide great services for our students, but so do all the other positions that we've cut," said Susie Jennings, associate superintendent for the 800-student district.

Robin Correll, the remaining nurse, worries how she will oversee the district's seven schools. She was already struggling to perform annual health and vision screenings.

"It will be impossible to do all the work," she said. "It breaks my heart. Kids deserve better."

Correll, like many nurses around the country, has already trained teachers and secretaries to dispense medication, give shots of adrenaline and help children use inhalers. So far the district has stopped short of asking nonmedical personnel to administer insulin.

The thought of someone without a medical background managing Brandon Merrell's diabetes makes his mother, Amy Merrell, very uncomfortable. The Gilbert, Ariz., woman wants assurances that her 8-year-old son will be properly cared for while he's at Coronado Elementary School.

"There needs to be somebody in there that knows what they're doing," she said.

She and her husband, Doug, are among the parents speaking out about the issue. After they and other parents objected to a plan to cut the number of school nurses from nine to two, the Higley Unified School District decided in June to maintain five nursing jobs.

In Keyse's North Carolina district, Barb Molton told county commissioners that she worried her diabetic 13-year-old son, Brice, had access to a school nurse for only two mornings a week.

"It can be scary dropping your child off at school wondering if that will be the day they might have a medical emergency and wondering if that is the day you might be lucky to have a school nurse there," she said at the hearing.

The commissioners agreed to fund two additional nurses for the upcoming school year.

School nurses, who have spent the last decade defending their jobs, are happy to see parents take up the cause, said David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

"That's how the change happens," he said. "That's how this issue gets solved."

We've all patched up the minor boo-boo or diagnosed strep infections or --gulp--pink-eye and called parents to take kids to the doctor. I am known as having a "Mama hand" that can pretty accurately predict what a kid's temperature is going to be. But handling catheters? Testing blood sugar? Nononononono. Hell, no. I won't dance. You can't make me. That is just too frightening. Think of the liability. Think of how a child could get hurt!

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