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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What mentoring will teach you

I have a teacher whom I am mentoring this year. She is not a fully new teacher, but she is new to our district. And you know what this experience has taught me already this year?

We are expected to juggle so many disparate tasks throughout the class period, the day, and the grading period, it's unbelievable. There is so much we are just expect to know how to do. You have to know the secret process for adding in behavior grades to the electronic grade book, how to interpret the attendance codes, how to fill out the new behavior referrals, how much parental contact is expected, which principals one can rely upon and which principals are completely non-supportive and clueless, how to generate and finalize grades and reports, and so on.

I am learning as much as she is. Primarily, that the demands of this job can be bewildering. I've just gotten inured to it.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

In honor of Talk Like Pirate Day, 2010!!!!!

"Blast your scuppers, ye barnacle- bitten landlubber, Come down and fight like a man!!!!"

Ahoy me hearties! And a pox upon the scurvy knave who be taking down me Yosemite Sam videos on YouTube!!!!

A mug of grog to all ye whose day was filled with plunder and growling! AAAARRGGHH!


Friday, September 17, 2010

You can tune a piano, but you can't tune a fish.

Young man approaches me before class and stands next to me as I peruse the traffic for any signs of malfeasance. He stands there a while. Finally, I ask, "hey bud, what can I do for you?"

He: "Ms. Cornelius, I gotta get my grade up in your class. I gotta be able to play tonight!"

Me: "Okay, do you have any of the work you owe me that's already due?" (He has a an IEP with extended deadlines.)

He: "No...."

Me: "Okay, well, did you get ready for the extra credit quiz I am giving on places in the news?"

He: "But I don't WATCH the news!"

Me: "Right, so that's why I told you about it on Monday and repeated it every day this week. So you could earn extra credit by watching the news."

He: But I gotta get my grade up so I can play tonight! What should I do?"

Me: (sighhhhhhhhhhhh.......)

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lions and tigers and "socialized medicine," oh my!

I was having that rarest of all things the other day--a reasoned, polite political conversation.

I know! Never happens, right?

But yes, there I was, just having this conversation, when along came someone not involved in the original conversation, which is cool, sure--until they start trying to be irrational and have no intention of doing anything except trying to plant words in your own mouth and make ad hominem attacks and, in the very last resort, resort to doublethink in an attempt to short-circuit true thinking about the issues at hand. One person actually claimed that foreigners were coming to the US in droves to escape the perils of universal health care. Really? Where are these scads and scads of people???

We were talking about fixing our broken health care system--it is, of course, an oxymoron to combine "health care" and "system" in the same phrase, but whatever floats your boat. But soon along came dis guy, as my Jersey friends might say, and started claiming all kinds of weird stuff I never said. Then someone else chimed in with how we should never be in favor of "socialized medicine" in our country.

So okay, I asked, just to be clear, what exactly do you mean by "socialized medicine?" I received no answer.

It's often that way. People trot out sound-bites of the minutest size when they don't have anything else to say. I mean, seriously, let's agree to disagree, and share ideas so that maybe we will find a palatable solution somewhere in the middle, but don't just bring out the flamethrower when you don't really want to examine what the flames mean.

So I have to wonder, what exactly does "socialized medicine" mean? If by socialism you mean the sharing of burdens among a group of people, I just want to ask this: what do you think insurance is, anyway? Remember, we don't have a health care system. We have health insurance in this country, provided by one's employer, in most cases, for better or worse. And this is by no stretch of the imagination a "system." Insurance is legalized gambling through the use of actuarial tables. Insurance tries to get the most people to pay for something that they will not use. And in case the odds are not stacked enough in the house's favor, the house also reserves the right not to pay out if they lose too much to any gambler-- not that one could be considered a "winner" if one ends up needing a lot of expensive medical care. What a system! It's almost as corrupt as... Communism was.

Here is the problem, as I see it: the insurance and pharmaceutical industries have thus far completely controlled the debate about health care reform. Congress is in the pockets of their billion dollar lobbying campaign, and we voters don't hold our elected representative accountable for selling out the interests of their constituents (definition: US!). Thus there has been precious little reform, and all of this has been directed by government employees who are provided free, lifetime, government- sponsored health care by that same government that they declare too corrupt and inefficient to provide for us. We cannot reform these industries because they block any regulation of their industry as "un-American."

We already pay for other people's health care. Having once been charged eight bucks for a solitary Tylenol extra strength while in the hospital, I can assure you of that.

But, hey, rather than think about what is really wrong with our current method, let's trot out thought-stifling words like "socialized medicine" and "death panels" if someone ever actually suggests that the system is broken for a large portion of Americans.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What else can I be? All apologies....

Sorry to check out on you there for a while, but what with the start of school and the Husbandly Unit suddenly going out of town at the drop of the old hat leaving moi to hold down the fort as barbarians (aka teenaged offspring) howl around the gates, I have been BUSY.

So here's what I have been up to:

I have enjoyed the much un-anticipated return of Psychokitty, the parent who once used her position as a district official to demand outrageous privileges for her children. I now have yet another of her kids, and said kid seems a perfectly decent sort if chronically underachieving. Yet Psychokitty has already met with the new, naive AP to demand that teachers email her every other day to confirm what she herself could read on the online grade book perfectly well.

So I am complying with this demand. This is actually not that onerous, if unnecessary, and so, okay, I send these missives off every few days. Fine. But woe betide the teacher who assumes that this information is already available to this person and they can assume that she knows how to operate a computerized grade book she was instrumental in installing throughout our district. Because her gambit is going to be that, even though this info is readily available to her of her own volition, any teacher who does not parrot back what the situation is with the student in question will doubtless be informed by the AP that, if hoops have not been jumped through, then grades will have to be adjusted from failing to passing when the grading period is over. Never mind that no other parent in the district receives such solicitous catering to.

Let's be clear-- I advocate open lines of communication from teacher to parent at every available opportunity. And if Psychokitty really cared about how much her child was learning, that would be one thing. But in truth, what she is after is finding the loophole so that her kid doesn't have to do the work and still get an A. Regardless of the fact that, if we just based her child's grades on quizzes and tests, she would still not be passing because... Wait for it... She hasn't done the work that helps one get that A through demonstrating understanding of the material being assessed. It's all a sad game for Psychokitty, and her kids are just pawns of her own emotional problems and negative attitude toward education.

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