Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Quick Hiatus

My "oh-so-wonderful" MacBook has failed on me. Therefore, I will be taking a small hiatus until my computer issues are fixed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The LA Times vs. Teachers

Union Leader urges Teachers to boycott LA Times via Washington Times

For those of you who haven't had the privilege of reading the article I am about to respond to here is the link: LA Times Basically the LA Times has decided to publish the ratings of teachers because, 
"they bear on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to the information." 
That's funny to me. No, really it is. In the same breath they give false praise to teachers, while saying that they will publish their ratings  to the public. This is appalling. Yes, teachers are public employees, but once again here is another example of teachers being rated largely on their student data. Two reasons this data is not sufficient. 

One- while teachers are responsible for educating students, they are not alone. 10 times out of 10 a student who has an involved parent (i.e. one who helps with homework, reads with the child, etc.) will perform higher than a parent who is not involved or less involved. Parental involvement plays an essential role. So should we also rank parents based on how their children perform, publish it for all to see and make unfair judgements?? I now quite a few parents who would be upset their parenting skills were whittled down to how their child performed on a standardized test. Many teachers feel the same way.

Two--Once again, I will reiterate my stand, teaching skill cannot be assessed purely off of test scores (yes I know test scores aren't the only thing that the LA Times factored in, but it is the primary factor)! Especially test scores that reflect upward movement only in the higher tiers. (For example- DC-CAS gains are only based on Proficient and Advanced scores. Gains made from Below Basic to Basic are not counted). 

While I have absolutely no problem with teachers being held accountable the current trend in education, which I believe has largely been incited by Michelle Rhee, is to put teachers on a stake. This LA Times article is just the latest example of the witch hunt for bad teachers. Despite the fact that, yes, there are bad teachers, please show me the line of journalists, politicians, parents, who want to do the job. It is a difficult job. It is thankless. It is not high paying by any means. Once again, it is THANKLESS.  

Instead of lambasting teachers why don't we support them? Help ineffective teachers improve by increasing time for professional development, resources in schools like math and literacy specialists and stop playing politics with our children's education and future.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Teachers vs. Administration

Students Protesting Teacher Firings courtesy of WashPost

In my short tenure as a teacher I think one of the most inspiring and promising aspects I have seen in education are the dedicated teachers. Surprised?? Many people outside the school system have relentlessly attacked teachers, especially in DC. I no longer read comments in response to the 241 teacher firings because they are laden with uniformed opinions about a very flawed system. Teachers are blamed for the lack of student achievement, but doesn't it seem in some ways that Rhee is just placing the blame elsewhere? Despite all the firings the DC-CAS scores just keep dropping. Wanna check? DC-CAS 2010 scores available here.

While admittedly Rhee has also fired many administrators it seems to be teachers who receive the brunt of her firings. The result of the new IMPACT evaluations led to the recent firing of 241 teachers (I believe 180 were directly a result of the evaluations) and put many other teachers on the chopping block. While I don't think I could argue as effectively against teachers being unfairly assessed as Prof. Aaron Pallas, I wonder what happened to the administrative accountability?

 While teachers employment is now more closely tied with student achievement on standardized testing, it is important to ask what role administration has in raising achievement and if it is possible for a teacher to succeed with a failing administration? While working at Winston (a prominent failing Southeast school) I saw administrative chaos and incompetence.  An air of order was feigned for Chancellor Rhee's visit, but the everyday management was negligible. Despite the fact that as a first year teacher I had negative support, I gained a great deal from other new teachers, as well as veterans. While I thankfully no longer have to endure the punishment of working at Winston many of my former students still do, under the same ineffective administration. A slightly KGB-esque administration whose primary interest was not in actual student achievement, but in keeping their own asses out of the fire Rhee is setting ablaze to DCPS.

An effective administration is equally important as the actual teachers in the classroom. Ask any teacher who has had a horrible administrative experience like my own. It forces inexperienced teachers to reinvent the wheel and it makes veteran teachers frustrated by the lack of cooperation they are receiving. While I have had some good administrators (who I could count on one hand) there are just far too many who have too little classroom experience and are simply too power hungry, unrelenting in their beliefs and unwilling to be open to the knowledge, ideas and experience that their teachers have.

To put it bluntly, it is far more difficult for a teacher to succeed with a failing administration. While I do not have statistics to back the claim, I would be willing to bet that more often than not instituting better qualified and trained administration would be more effective than mass firings of teachers who show themselves dedicated through their commitment to this crazy, messed up system that is DCPS.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Slightly Awkward Encounter...

Walking to the bus stop I saw a young girl with a tacky wig, skimpy outfit and bright pink lipstick. I shook my head to myself and proceeded to keep it moving. Then a squeaky voice redirected me to the young girl, "Hi, Ms. S!" I took a double take. That young girl...was a former student of mine. I couldn't help but be taken aback...

This girl, was a 13 year old in my 5th grade class back in my bad old days of teaching at Winston Educational Center (Definitely not Southeast's finest). I remember her days in my class where, despite being the oldest student (surprisingly not even by that much), she was unable to grasp many reading concepts that were necessary...oh, perhaps in the 2nd grade. Although she came in far below grade level and left below grade level, I knew that she would be passed on to the next grade. While I understand the concept of social promotion I'm not sure how much that really would help her. Turn the clock forward and I hear from one of my friends who still has the "pleasure" to be gainfully employed by Winston, that not only has she been passed, but she has been SKIPPED to the 7th grade due to her age.

While I have remained relatively quiet on my tenure at Winston I feel that this matter needs to be addressed. Grade levels, retention, social promotion, academics, etc. all have been really been deemed irrelevant at this school. I am not even arguing for this young girl, but really her original retentions proved worthless because she saw her peers being promoted despite their academic deficiencies. Of my class of 28 students, I requested that 4 be retained due to their inability or unwillingness to complete grade level work. Not a single student was retained of this class. I won't argue the case on whether retention is necessary or not, but the fact remains that simply due to statistics, children are being passed along.

While at Winston a friend of mine taught the 8th grade class. She could tell you stories that should only appear in nightmares. She was faced with a class who had dealt with the bureaucracy of DCPS and Winston and had already given up. A class of 14-16 year olds, who knew despite anything they did in the classroom that they would graduate from the 8th grade, which is exactly what happened. The principal of Winston (wonderful educator that she is....) wanted them OUT. Their scores did nothing to help the school, their age contributed to the delinquency that ran rampant throughout the school and their behavior was one of the reasons that 2 cops were permanently stationed in the school (YES. WTF?) So good ole principal gave them the boot under the guise of graduation.

This does nothing to help our youth and in reality it invalidates their educational experience. Why are the practices of many of our community schools being overlooked? Why when Michelle Rhee is gung-ho to shut down schools and completely restaff them are practices like these being ignored? This is a problem that I am sure is not just prevalent at Winston, but probably exists citywide...dare I say (countrywide) in this new age of testing craziness.

Anyway, I hope that lil girl I saw is taking her time and not trying to grow up so fast. I was too shocked and tongue-tied to ask how she was doing, but if you are what you wear, and your friends define you....then I am a little worried for her.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"If Someone Shows You Who They Are--Believe Them" ~Maya Angelou

Last night my niece sent me a facebook message with the following message: "For an assignment I am suppose to have family or friends look at a list of values and choose 10 in order of importance to your life."

Altruism Amusement Appreciation Attractiveness Beauty Camaraderie Candor Capability Composure Conformity Creativity Dignity Education Fairness Faith Fame Family Freedom Friendliness Fun Giving Grace Growth Happiness Harmony Health Helpfulness Humor Imagination Impartiality Independence Integrity Intelligence Intuitiveness Inventiveness Joy Justice Kindness Knowledge Leadership Learning Liberation Liberty Longevity Love Loyalty Maturity Meekness Modesty Neatness Optimism Order Peace Perfection Philanthropy Playfulness Pleasantness Pleasure Poise Purity Realism Reason Reflection Relaxation Reliability Resilience Resolve Reverence Selflessness Self-reliance Serenity Service Sharing Simplicity Sincerity Solitude Spontaneity Stability Strength Success Sympathy Temperance Thoughtfulness Thrift Tidiness Timeliness Traditionalism Tranquility Trustworthiness Truth Understanding Unity Usefulness Virtue Wealth Winning Wisdom Wittiness Wonder Youthfulness

As a night owl I got the pleasure of responding first. I listed them in order, but gave more thought to the picks than the order really:

1) Love
2) Family
3) Integrity
4) Giving
5) Strength
6) Sincerity
7) Resilience
8) Loyalty
9) Understanding
10) Modesty

*Afterthought: I probably after further thought would replace "Understanding" with "Kindness"

Sister A:
1) Love
2) Liberty
3) Wisdom
4) Integrity
5) Service
6) Resilience
7) Reverence
8) Joy
9) Imagination
10) Humor

Lil Brother:
1) Freedom
2) Growth
3) Kindness
4) Loyalty
5) Wisdom
6) Sincerity
7) Resolve
8) Creativity
9) Harmony
10) Grace
HM: Solitude

*Cheater you can't make an honorable mention. It said 10!

I did not do it in order: Altruism, Education, Family, Freedom Health, Imagination, Integrity Maturity, Wisdom, Peace

Sister K:
1) Optimism
2) Family
3) Love
4) Joy
5) Peace
6) Simplicity
7) Strength
8) Kindness
9) Pleasure
10) Solitude

1) Family
2) Love
3) Loyalty
4) Freedom
5) Solitude
6) Integrity
7) Reverence
8) Peace
9) Wisdom
10) Imagination

Niece's Godmother:
1) Love
2) Loyalty
3) Liberty
4) Altruism
5) Freedom
6) Justice
7) Order
8) Self-reliance
9) Reliability
10) Resilience

It was really interesting for me to look at the different responses my family had. I could blog for days about how each of their choices reflect some aspect they embody in their lives. For example my mother, brother and sister all included solitude as a top 10 value. I could die from non-surprise. Anyone who has interacted with any of these 3 people would be able to tell you that while they are social people they yearn for me time and often prefer solitude. I wonder what my list says about me? Anyway, just interesting...what 10 would you choose? What does that say about you?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unemployed DC Teacher

For the second summer in a row I have had my nose to the grindstone pretty much daily looking for jobs. As usual the responses drag...until August. I have had 2 interviews all summer and then out of nowhere 4 pop up this week. Thank you DC schools for being procrastinators (just like me)....

Well, today I went and interviewed at a DC Charter School in Southeast and it was a pretty typical story: low test scores, discipline problems, mostly brand new staff, new principal, etc., etc.

I had a difficult time sleeping last night. I don't know why, but whenever something new happens I always am restless. The HR woman had told me that my interview was for 10 originally, but said she would e-mail a confirmation. I called at 9 to confirm and she was like, "Oh, I said 11"...definitely didn't but oh, well. Slightly unprofessional.

I went to the interview and everything seemed to go pretty well. We had a good rapport and she even went so far as to tell me I was a very strong candidate. YeaH! However, the low point came when she brought up my past employment (damn)....she goes "What do you think Principal "Smith" would say if I called her and asked about you?" My face (which B says tells everything) probably gave away my disgust with that question. For those who were lucky enough to not be with me during my first year of teaching, my first year principal was....horrid. She tormented me, berated me and tried countless times to get me to quit. But I persevered!! How did I answer that question?? I was on the spot...

I told her....that as a first year teacher I probably made some mistakes and did not have the opportunity to develop a positive relationship with my principal. Eek! Don't know if this was the right thing to say or not...but hopefully I will hear a decision either way ASAP.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review of Natural Kinks DC

Natural Kinks Hair & Braiding‎
406 8th Street SE, Washington, DC‎
(202) 543-2722‎

I am pretty cautious about going to salons, unless I am simply getting extensions put in....however, I decided to brave it and go to "Natural Kinks." I did not have an appointment, but decided to see if I could be seen. Luckily for me someone has just canceled an appointment so they fit me in. (It is best to make an appointment because I was asked to come back after an hour when a woman with an appointment came in, which I thought was fair).

The atmosphere was very peaceful, it was not overcrowded and they played relaxing R&B and was very clean and nicely decorated. While waiting to get back in the chair I saw many other beautiful twist, loc and braid styles completed and I was pretty confident I would be satisfied with the style I received.

My shampoo and deep conditioning was amazing. They used all natural hair products, which I could feel opening up my scalp. My hair felt great and then my stylist sat and talked to me about what I was looking for from this appointment. Shocking! I know, a stylist who truly cares about your hair and your opinions concerning it. She asked me all the prerequisite natural hair woman questions: how long have you been natural, what products do you use, what styles do you typically wear your hair in?, etc.

She gave me some informative tips and product suggestions, which I was open to and then styled my hair into a flat twist/twist half updo.

I will say I was really happy with my experience, but after walking out I was not quite so pleased with how light my wallet felt. Great place that I would love to support...but way too expensive. For a style that really only looked great for 1 week and then looked acceptable for another week I felt slightly cheated.