Thursday, February 10, 2005

More on money

To begin today I have three more reasons money matters:

1. I have no place in my room to secure important materials like tests. My file cabinet does not lock. My closet does not even have doorknob. For the past two years when they asked us to fill out maintenance requests for summer work, I have requested they fix the doorknob. No luck.

2. Yesterday, to begin our lesson on the social effects of the Great Depression, I gave students this question on their drill/warm-up: What do you consider unacceptable living conditions?

Two students wrote "this school." When I attempted to tell them that really they have it good and should not complain (I only whine to you, dear readers, not in front of the students because that models poor work attitudes), they pointed out that there are not locks on most of the bathroom stalls and they consider privacy a basic requirement. Can't argue with that.

3. Most of my reasons so far have concerned the physical environment of the school. Those really aren't the most important, though. As I mentioned in my last post, I think classroom size it the biggest issue. Behavior management is easier with a small group. Differentiating instruction is easier with a small group. Grading is easier for a small group. Communicating with parents is easier with a small group. Getting to know students, and thus being able to watch for changes in behavior, sleeping habits, eating habits, etc that signal at-risk activities is easier in a small group. Using alternative assessments like portfolios in easier with a small group. Discussion is easier with a small group. Do I need to go on?

In other news...
I went to a workshop today. This was not a workshop put on completely by our school district, although some of the social studies officials were there. It is part of a grant program from the Dept. of Ed. You go for two days in the winter and then have the opportunity to go for two weeks in the summer. You take a college course in the morning and research in the afternoon. The goal is to help you infuse primary documents into your classroom. They pay tuition, books, parking, AND give a thousand dollar stipend. Basically, you get paid to be a college student again for two weeks. Count me in!

This morning, though, we started with a presentation by a man I will call Mr. Knowitallwithougeverreallyhavingtrieditbefore (Actually I'll just call him Mr. Knowitall for short.). Our district has sponsored talks by Mr. Knowitall before and they seem to have a real love affair with him. Here's his background:

Mr. Knowitall was a history professor.
He noticed students that came to his class weren't prepared for the college experience.
He decided he could do a better job.
He took a year off, and with the support of his college, took over one teacher's elementary classroom at a good school to see if he could do it differently. The regular classroom teacher was there the entire time.
His experience worked.
The next year he went back to being a professor and wrote a book about how great his "proven" teaching method was.

You can imagine how teachers respond to him. Every time he brags, I want to raise my hand and say "um..did you even have to do report cards while you were there?" You know, like when someone asked Bush Sr. how much milk cost. Maybe this guy really does know what he is talking about, and I certainly agree with his philosophy, but no teacher likes to be told what to do by someone who never really survived teaching on his own.

Also, as I have mentioned before I am the teacher representative on our school's PTSA. Today I got an email that had been forwarded from the PTSA president. It had been sent to her anonymously from some parent of a kid that graduated last year. I wish I could excerpt some of the passages for you, and maybe after things settle down I will. Let's just say this parent is a little bitter. Most of the letter took shots at the principal, who like all principals can improve on some things, but for the most part is doing a great job. The letter made broad, sweeping accusations of all sorts. I'll give you an example: We have had a real problem with cheating at our school (several blog posts worth, really). It is especially bad among the students who feel the most pressure. Early on in the year, a student stole an Advanced Placement social studies test and shared it with nearly 100 other students (who admitted their role). This parent actually suggested that the teacher (not me, thank God) be punished, too for being so irresponsible as to leave a test where a student could find it. (If you agree with parent, see #1 above.)

The parent also suggested the school is too negative because we give students a book of threats and make them read it the first day. This book is actually the student handbook, and we do have an assembly to go over said book on the very first day of classes. The district actually requires us to do so for legal reasons. It is imperative that no student be able to claim they didn't know the rules. I, of course, have attended these assemblies and they can actually be informative for the students. In the past, students have asked excellent clarifying questions dealing with sexual harassment and other things.

Anyway, I'm not sure what, if any, action will be taken as a result of the letter. I'll keep you posted...