About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Not My America


I am not one of those who say of Trump, "He's not my president."  Of course, he is by definition of having won the Electoral College vote (though not the vote of the people) and by definition of me being an American.  

However, what he symbolizes is an alien spirit in this country I love. Therefore, I can truly say that Trump's America is not my America.

My America starts with the idea that justice is for all people, not just those who look, pray, think, and believe the way I do. 

My America believes in the principle that by helping all we help ourselves.  I call this the "Lincoln Principle" taken from Abraham Lincoln's December 1, 1862 address to Congress (given 1 month before the Emancipation Proclamation) when he stated:

In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free. . . .
 For me this means that whenever we seek the good of others in America regardless of who they are, we do good for ourselves. Whenever we seek to exclude others from the benefits of our community, we do harm to ourselves.

My America is a land of tolerance, a land that celebrates diversity and draws strength from the contributions of many cultures.

My America believes our greatest weakness is not a lack of military might, but a lack of empathy for the plight of the marginalized and dispossessed in our world.

My America rejects fear and accepts openness towards others.

My America is not Trump's America.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

History Rhymes

Some have called this the Best Book of 2016

Some weeks ago, I read the above novel, which uses a conceit by making the historical Underground Railroad an actual railroad line with various stations that transport runaway slaves to the North. Whitehead's alternative history novel is at times heartbreaking, at times inspiring, and even at time horrific. I highly recommend it.

I feel very strongly that this book has lessons for our own situation as we face the Trump presidency. 

In our present time, I feel there are parallels between the 19th Century Fugitive Slave Laws and the "seize and deport" actions by federal immigration officials.In both cases, American citizens have been asked to act as some sort of posse comitatus to inform on neighbors and co-workers whom they believe are wanted by the law. In both cases, we are told that these people are not, well, fully people; they are property, or they are illegal.

Now the knee-jerk reactions to that statement will run thusly:
They ARE illegal! What part of "illegal" do you not understand? 
Answer: The slaves were "illegal" once they tried escape their bondage. The law called them property. Their attempt to escape was theft for which the property owner could administer any punishment he saw fit including torture and death.  The law makes the undocumented "illegal." Perhaps the above response begs the question. The question should be, is the law just? Does it do good or harm? My answer is the law is harmfully unjust.

Illegal immigrants are NOT slaves! They came here on their own and can, and must, leave either on their own or by force if needed.
Answer: True, in so far as that goes; in fact, the two examples are nearly mirror opposite images. Slaves were forced here against their will and tried to escape their forced labor. Undocumented workers came here by their own free will and wish to remain so they can labor for a better life for themselves and their families. 

However, what unites these two groups is the question of justice and human dignity. Slaves tried to regain their dignity by fleeing the owners' attempt to degrade them to the level of animals. Undocumented workers try to regain their dignity by escaping poverty, oppression, violence, and the real possibility of forced slavery at the hands of dictators or gangs. 

This brings me to the historic Underground Railroad and the present day Sanctuary Movement about which I wrote in yesterday's post. 
In both cases, citizens have taken upon themselves the burden of protecting vulnerable people from unjust laws.

In both cases, law enforcement officials and some politicians wish to punish those operating the sanctuaries for aiding and abetting "law breakers," slaves and undocumented workers.

In both cases, the officials have no qualms about breaking up families, subjecting citizens to arbitrary search, seizures and arrests.

In both cases, these "hunters and catchers" do not care that those they arrest may be subject to abject poverty, assault (often including rape), danger and death.

Again, there are differences, but enough similarities that those of us calling for sanctuaries in cities, churches and now colleges should feel that we have precedents that show that we are fighting on the side of justice. 




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Make the Oklahoma City Public School District a Sanctuary

Thousands have signed petitions urging their campuses to protect undocumented students, who will likely be at increased risk of deportation under President-elect Donald Trump. (Photo: AP taken from the web site Common Dreams commondreams.org)

Since the election of Donald Trump with his message of deportation and exclusion, several colleges, particularly in New York state, have become "Sanctuary Campuses" to offer protection to undocumented students facing deportation. These sanctuary campuses refuse cooperation with federal authorities by denying them access to student records, barring immigration enforcement officers permission to come on campus to apprehend suspected undocumented students, and affirming that all their students have a right to an education free from harassment and intimidation. (Adapted from an article by Kate Aronoff in the social justice journal In These Times.)

I propose that the Oklahoma City Public School District with it large immigrant student body, which includes Hispanics, Asiatic, and African children, join this movement by declaring that our district is a sanctuary district, not only for its students but also for its staff, and that all of its campuses, workplaces, and offices are sanctuary sites.  As Claudia Carvajal, an NYU law student whose family emigrated to the US in 2012, stated at a rally in New York City:

In our current political climate, the rhetoric used by politicians and institutions is critical. . . . Anything short of a declaration that explicitly sends a message to the incoming [Trump] administration . . . falls short. (Kate Aronoff "Campuses Without Borders" In These Times, January 2017: 9)
I am in the process of contacting various administrators, board members, and community leaders to gain their support. Could my friends in the Central Oklahoma area, particularly those in the OKC school district help in this resistance? 

  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

School in the good old days.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, I get weary of those who say, "American education isn't as good or rigorous as it was back in my day." I present to you a textbook I rescued from old John Marshall High School. "Cavalcade of American Writing" Copyright 1961, edited by Gunnar Horn.xon Americans except for a couple of "Negro Spirituals" made up, according to the author, by "humble and uneducated slaves." Marion Anderson's picture is on the introductory page making hers the only named black person in the book. The song "Dixie" is in the anthology next to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Henry W. Grady's "New South," a praise for the South written in a time when Jim Crow was firmly established as the law of the old Confederacy, is included in the anthology.
I think I might have used this text when I was in high school in the 60s. There are about 111 selections in this by around 70 authors, 9 are women. There are no selections from any non-Anglo-Sa
Nearly all the questions following the selection are what we in the education biz would classify as DOK1 responses to the text. Typical is this one about Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address": "What explanation does Lincoln give for making his address short?"
My point is this. We teach much more to our students today. We teach many more authors, a larger variety of authors, and we ask much more of our students in their responses.
We are doing a better job of teaching today to a far more difficult environment than those who went before us. We owe them much, but we have nothing to be ashamed of in comparing ourselves to them.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review of "Water to Wine"

Water to Wine: Some of My StoryWater to Wine: Some of My Story by Brian Zahnd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Water to Wine: Some of My Story is Brian Zahnd's memoir of his spiritual journey from "Americanized Christianity" to a deeper level of Christian living. Zahnd first encountered the Christian faith during the "Jesus Movement" of the early 1970s. He began a non-denominational Pentecostal church named "Word of Life Church" in St. Joseph, Missouri that grew into a highly successful fellowship.

Despite his success as a pastor and much in demand speaker, Zahnd began to feel a his faith was lacking depth, and so he began a study and walk of faith that led him to discover more a deeper theology and prayer life than he had experienced in more formulaic Christian worship and belief.

He developed an appreciation for Christian thinkers like St. Augustine, Thomas Merton, G. K. Chesterton, and St. Francis of Assisi. He read Karl Barth's Dogmatics, no easy chore I can affirm, as well as other theologians. He also developed a deeper prayer life through spiritual mystics like Julian of Norwich along with a host of other poets and singers, including Bob Dylan.

I found his story interesting in that he rejects the typical conservatism of most evangelical Christianity. He calls his uncritical viewing of the American air attacks on Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War his "worst sin." He says that his changing perspective have cost him many former friends and church members. He also is critical of the evangelical churches uncritical endorsement of capitalism. His criticism reminds me of something I encountered a long time ago and affected my attitude toward conservative evangelicalism.

Several decades ago I was in a Christian book store and saw some "biblical action figures" for sale. This was during the "golden age" of action figures, if such an age exists, featuring "He-Man," "Skeletor," "She-Rah," and others. These articulated dolls were heroes like "Samson," "David," "Moses," "Joshua," and "Gideon." There were even villains like "Goliath" or "Pharoah." It seemed to me that someone had taken a consumer product and had poured "Christian sauce" over it to make it acceptable and also to make a buck.

I find his spiritual journey similar to my own in many ways. I was raised evangelical, in the holiness tradition, but have since joined a church involved in the social gospel. My own passion is for social justice. This is one area of lack I see in Zahnd's story. He hints that he may be open to working for "justice of all," but he does not detail any concrete steps he has taken in this direction.


View all my reviews

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Notes from Mayflower UCC 3/6/16


Here are some notes I took while attending Mayflower this morning along with Cat. My comments are in [brackets].

Sermon by Rev. Lori Walke
Rev. Lori Walke

Scripture: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 [The Parable of the Prodigal Son]
Sermon Title: THE WORST PARABLE

Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees [think-Club for Growth & other such groups] and the scribes [think any group of religious fundamentalists]

We all like to imagine ourselves as the Prodigal Son in this story because we like the idea that no matter how badly we mess things up, we can still be redeemed.

We often find ourselves acting like the older brother who is critical of the way that the father treats the wastefully extravagant son (which is what the word "prodigal" means. We want to see consequences for bad choices.

We don't want to play the part of the "prodigal" father who is wastefully extravagant not only with his welcome and forgiveness of the son.

We need to learn how to say 3 things: "We Love You. You Are Forgiven. Welcome Homes."

[My question, "So when does love and forgiveness become enabling?"]


Thursday, March 03, 2016

What Happened When Our Juniors Were Required to Take the SAT on Wednesday

Actually, this was not exactly high-stakes, but the attitude the kids had towards it was about the same.
On Wednesday, all juniors in the Oklahoma City Public School district were required to take the SAT exam.  This is the brainchild of someone brought into the district by the new administration. Here's how our kids responded.

A large number of juniors were absent from the test on Wednesday.  I was the proctor for what was supposed to be a group of 20 but only 15 bothered to show up.  So about a quarter of the students or more elected not to take the test with their feet.

It was very warm in the testing room. The temperature on the room thermostat, which the teachers do not control, rose to about 81 degrees. We managed to find a couple of room fans, one of which is my own, to attempt to cool the kids down.  Bottled water was provided, but it was not refrigerated. 

Heads began to go down rather early in the test. TB put his head down at the start. IM complained about the heat and then decided to nap. 

A few seemed to look upon the test as an opportunity for them to show how well they can perform on the test and/or get into college. Most, though, saw this as something they had to endure.'

I wonder if this is because we educators do not demand enough of these students, and so they are not prepared. Or has the culture of poverty, the hopelessness of these children so stunted their ambitions that they do not think this test is worth the effort it takes to perform well since they do not see that they can reap any rewards from it.

Despite all the problems I see, it did appear that most of the 15 students were making an effort to do well. 

Then they begin to get restless. We started at 8:00am and ended at around 1 pm.  We are doing the version of the test that has an essay component.  Many students leave the essay blank, which is something they do when I give them a combination multiple choice/essay test. The essay portion has an extended bit of reading along with it. Many looked at the reading in the essay booklet and exclaimed, "Hell No!"

IM awakens from her nap and begin talking, in whispers, to her friend TT.  I wanted them separated in class, but they were pretty good for most of the test.  In the back, 3 boys start teasing each other. 

Finally, we are through, and we go down to Media Center for lunch.  The lunch crew provides a  sack lunch for the students consisting of some lunch meat, a slice of cheese, white bread, and an apple. Fortunately, someone sprang for some pizza for the crew.  

We will see what the results of the test are sometime in the future.  We are about 20 days or so from the End Of Instruction Tests.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tomorrow--Another Day, Another Test

Tomorrow all juniors in our school will take the SAT. I suppose that this has something to do with getting our students "college and career ready," the new mantra of education gurus. 
Pretty much the way all teachers feel these days

I am expecting that some students will seize the opportunity given to them to qualify for college; however, for the most part, several will blow off the test and be finished in 5 minutes of what is going to be a 4 hour test.

I just hope they remember to bring their No. 2 pencils!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Benchmark Testing Day 2


2nd Hour: 5 students with their heads on the desk during the test at one point. Many students finish their portion of the test in less than 5 minutes.

3rd Hour: 3 students with their heads on the desk despite all my efforts to get them up.  All 3, DC, TB and ML, did the same thing yesterday. They obviously are not taking this test as seriously as the powers that be in the district administration expect them to. Another student, JB, also puts her head down. Normally, JB is a good student, but the test has tired her out or bored her to sleep. I don't know what I can do.

4th Hour: This is the AP class, yet even here, I have to go to a couple of students and get them going on this test.

6th Hour: The problem here is mainly students talking and carrying on. It's the female students this time.  But there are a couple of napping students: CB and AH.

It is nearly impossible for teens to remain silent and/or alert as they need to do during high stakes testing.  This type of testing goes against nearly every characteristic of adolescents. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Giving Benchmarks


Today I gave the school district "benchmark" tests in English III. These are designed to find out how much the students have learned so far this year.

Good luck with that.

Students dislike taking these tests as much as I dislike giving them. The first thing they want to know is if these tests will count for a grade. (Yes) Then they want to know how many questions there are on it. (63) Then they want to know why they have to take them along with the other tests we make them take. (Hard one to answer, but it comes down to knowing what we still need to learn.)  Then they go about trying to sabotage the process.

This is what happens during 2nd hour.

Some, not all, just try to rush through as fast as they can.  Some, like SR, just sit and groush. Of course, SR sits and kvetches about almost everything.  I often wonder why she can't be more like SM who is continually bright and sunny most all of the time. (See, I told you that I'd put you in the blog.)

F keeps her phone out although she has been told that she has to put it away for the test.  She acts as if she can't hear me, so I have to call for an administrator to takes her out of class. He brings her back about 5 minutes later. She is now contrite and will do what I say.  She is one of the best at playing the Passive/Aggressive game.

FM comes in about 30 minutes late without a pass. When he finds out that I will assign him detention, he goes back and gets a pass marked "Excused."  I think that he should be counted absent, but when I ask an administrator about it, he says that the excused pass excuses everything. He is not able to start the test, so he will have to start from the beginning tomorrow. 

None of the students finish today, so we will have to do this again tomorrow. 

3rd hour.

DC and ML keep their head on their desk all during the test despite all my efforts to get them to at least try and get started.  The rest do pretty well because I let them know if they get at least 25 of the 63 questions done, they can get their beloved phones out and do whatever it is so vital for them to do for the rest of the hour.  

I have had to resort to bribery.

4th hour goes well. That's the AP Language class

6th hour

This is very small class, and I would think I would have few problems with them. However, this is the class of my comedians. Particularly 3 boys who seem to go everywhere together.  I call them, among other things, the 3 Amigoes, and sometimes Moe, Larry and Curly. (I have other trio names that I pull out from time to time.)

They more or less feed off of each other along with some of the girls in the class.  Usually I just go with the flow, and we make it through the period in good spirits. However, when we need to buckle down and take things a bit more seriously, the hijinks get in the way.

Example, (from one of the girls), "Mr. Green, do boys get bloated?"
"Huh?"
"Do boys get bloated?"
"Mr. Green, she is asking if boys get gas."
"You need to do this test. It's important."
"Mr. Green, I am about to pass gas."
"Just go out into the hall, then."
"Okay."
Of course, by this time flatulence has become the topic of the day.

I get them through the exam okay, but I wonder how much "useful data" has been generated through all this.



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bubble-in Test Week


Tomorrow we will begin the district benchmark tests, which will take about 3 classes to complete. I have never found these tests to yield much in the way of useful data because many of the students do not take them seriously.  

We keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.  I have heard that that is a good definition of some type of mental condition.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Love is thicker than Blood

From Left to Right: Stephanie, Devin & Skylar
I missed school on Friday in order to travel up to Tulsa for a funeral.  The woman being memorialized had raised Stephanie who was living with her when she passed away at age 90. Until the memorial service, I did not know her name, Doris Leoma Tincher, until the memorial service. To us, she was always "Grannie" because that is what Stephanie called her.

Stephanie, pictured above in a photo taken at Christmas in 2013, is our daughter though she is not a blood relative.  She, at one time, was married to my wife's son, and it was through him that she and her wonderful children came into our lives.  We call her daughter Skylar and her son Devin our grandchildren.  I never had children of my own, but somehow I have in my elder year been graced with having a daughter and two grandchildren.  Our love for each other has bound us closer than mere blood often binds parents and offsprings.

Something else I discovered yesterday was that this was not the first time that Stephanie had this type of relationship because she was not of the same blood as her grannie.  Stephanie and her mother married into Grannie's family.  Soon afterward, her mother left Stephanie to be raised by Grannie and her husband, whom I never recall meeting.  Love was also in this case the family tie that Stephanie has enjoyed.

Stephanie gave a moving tribute to Grannie through a poem she wrote.  I will try to publish it soon.


Skylar working at the stables
Showing off her riding award
Skylar riding



Six years ago, Skylar came to live with us. Skylar is mentally handicapped and is not ashamed for anyone to know this.  Yet she functions at a very high level for one in her condition. In addition to being Grandma and Grandpa's memory, "Did you remember to take your meds?", she works at some riding stables out west of Piedmont and has taken part in several riding competitions. Devin lives in Tulsa and works downtown at, JoMama's Pizza, one of the restaurants in the Blue Dome District.  Their lives have enriched ours more than can be measured.

There is a saying that "Blood is Thicker Than Water."  To a certain extent, this is true.  You feel a bond and in many cases an obligation to those with whom you are related.  But as the relationship between Stephanie, Skylar, Devin, Cat, and me proves, Love is often thicker than even blood can be.

Grandma & Grandpa love Stephanie, Skylar, and Devin more than we can express.  You are truly a part of us forever.



Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Charter Schools in the district?

We got a report today that our district administration wants to convert up to 9 schools into charter schools. They might as well say to the Centennial students, "You really don't matter."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Our Reading Club


I have tried to have a reading club at the high school for several years now.  A big part of the problem is finding the time for the club and getting the interest of the students.

At first, we had a fairly large club going with around 20-25 showing up once a week.  It started out as a Steampunk Reading Club.  
Me with my Steampunk hat discussing Steampunk books with some students.


We have dwindled down to 4 or 5, and we don't read Steampunk only. We read mainly fantasy books, usually Urban Fantasy like The Maze Runner or Mortal Instruments.

As I said, one problem is time.  Most of our students have to ride on buses to get home, so an after school reading club is out of the question.  That leaves lunch hour which for the high school kids is divided into two lunches.  I also have meeting with my Professional Learning Community (PLC) made up of the high school English teachers.  

Right now, we are reading The Golden Compass which is part of a trilogy entitled His Dark Instruments by Philip Pullman.

This book has many of the marks of Steampunk. It's an alternative history that features both real technology and magical devices.  I've enjoyed reading it. I will find out tomorrow when the group meets for the weekly get together to discuss our reading.




Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scalia, Prof Development, Student Testing, Valentines, and a teacher in search of a topic


I don't really have a topic in mind today, but I thought I would just sit down and see if anything at all happens.  


I could write about the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's death and the implication it has for the Supreme Court, Pres. Obama and the 2016 election, but that's getting all sorts of coverage and commentary. I don't really have anything to add to it other than we now have a chance to bend the Moral Arc of the Universe a bit more towards something like justice. 

Scalia never really understood that in order to approach the realm of justice, one has to change directions from how it was understood in the past to how it should be understood in the present and projected towards the future.  His idea of justice was something that had been revealed and to make any changes was to deviate from that revelation.

I could also write about the fact that tomorrow I will be in school, but my students will not.  February 15 is "Professional Development Day" in the district. Often this is a time where we listen and somewhat participate when an educational "consultant" comes in and tells us that we have been teaching our students all wrong.  

A few of us will be doing that this time round because the district has something in store for their particular field of teaching.  However, most of us will be working on our CFAs, remediation, and data reviews.  This is actually a pretty good thing because it means we will have time for all the stuff that fills up our planning periods, after school time, and often our evenings and weekends.

I will also be preparing to 

Give Another Test!!!!!
Specifically the

The Oklahoma Public School District has decided to give all juniors in high school the SAT on March 2nd just as we did the ACT back in 1st semester.  So we have to train on how to give it on Monday.  

Many people give lip service to the fact that we test students too much, but in reality each year students take more and more and more tests.  I think sometime in the future students will take a new test each day of the school year. Then we REALLY will be teaching them.

I also could write about the fact that I had a wonderful Valentine's Day weekend with my wife.
We stayed in a nice hotel together, had a great meal at a fine restaurant, and enjoyed one another's love.  I am very fortunate to have found and married my wife Cat.  I tell folks that when I found her I won the lottery, and I really mean it.  My only regret is that we did not find each other sooner, but I think it happened when we were truly prepared for each other.

Well, I really don't have anything to write about, so I will just close and wish you all a Happy President's Day.

Only 7 More Days Till Spring Training Begins!!!!!



Saturday, February 13, 2016

Orderly classroom or "School to Prison Pipeline"?

Actually 3 days this time
It was a rough start to the week, but I got through it. I began the week battling another bout of depression, but I decided that I would work through it rather than take another day off and lose another day of instruction for the students.  I got through it by doing a few things I read about in articles on depression: listening to music, went for evening walks, got to bed early, read some good books (Walden for one). 

The week went fairly well with the students, and I thought that this would be one of the good ones.

However, on Friday, things turned confrontational with some of my students.  The objective for the week was to write an essay comparing and contrasting two similar stories: one by Langston Hughes, the other by yours truly.  The Hughes story was "Salvation", a story about a time he was in a revival service and was pressured into saying that he was "saved", which he felt was a lie.  My story "Camp Meeting" was about a time I attended a week long camp in north Texas where I began to question the evangelical experience for the first time, which led to my present attitude to evangelicalism altogether.

Some students make it impossible for the rest to learn

The problem came when several students refused to follow the class procedures I needed to get them started on the project. These include no "side-bar" interpersonal conversations, raise hands before talking, put away electronic devices and ear buds, and pay attention to the instructions.  Several of the more rowdy students began passive-aggressive behavior (raising hands and speaking out without permission). Others were outright defiant. All together about 6 or 7 students had to be escorted out of class for the rest to proceed in peace.

So, was this another example of the so-called "school to prison pipeline?" Or was this my attempt to save students from a bleak future by creating a classroom environment in which authentic learning could take place.

What do you think? 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Remediation

One thing we are big on this year at Centennial is the idea of remediation, which means taking students who are struggling with learning the objectives, pulling them out of other classes (typically electives), tutoring, and retesting them to see if they have "mastered" the objectives.

For example, I gave a Common Formative Assessment (CFA) on the objective "figurative language and sound devices" in poetry.  Most of my students knew what devices like metaphor, hyperbole, alliteration, and, everyone's favorite, onomatopoeia are by definition. Most could also match a list of examples with the devices they represented. For example, most could look at a sentence such as, "the sun beat on my head with angry, hot fists" and identify the devices as personification.

However, when presented with poetry that contained these devices, they had trouble identifying the figure of speech or the sound device being used.
Which one is it????


Even more difficult for them was describing the effect of the device. 
Here is a poem from a Glencoe supplemental publication to be used to prepare for the Oklahoma End-of-Instruction test for English II:
Purchase
by NAOMI LONG MADGETT
I like the smell of new clothes,
The novel aroma of challenge.
This dress has no past
Linked with regretful memories
To taint it,
Only a future as hopeful
As my own.
I can say of an old garment
Laid away in a trunk:
“This lace I wore on that day when. . . .”
But I prefer the new scent
Of a garment unworn,
Untainted like the new self
That I become
When I first wear it.

Here is a question for this selection:

What does the speaker mean when she says, “This dress has no past /
Linked with regretful memories / To taint it?”

A The speaker does not have a past that could be spoiled by the dress.
B The speaker does not know anything about the person who made the dress.
C New clothes are good because they do not remind us of the past.
D A new dress is good because it has never been worn by another person

The correct answer is "C", but many of my students would choose "A" or even "D" because they would either speculate on the speaker, or they would choose the answer that they would associate most with new clothes.

So what I will need to do is to teach them to be active readers of poetry and other texts as well. My students don't do that. If the answer is not obvious, they get frustrated because their imaginations do not work that way. 

Tomorrow, I will have about 8 students who are designated for remediation. I will have to remediate about 15 more before I am finished. I will report on how it went.




Thursday, February 04, 2016

Teacher Mandates

Well, the good news is I was able to return to class this morning feeling my usual chipper self without any depression hangover.  And classes went fairly well.  I got to thinking about all the requirements and mandates I have to deal with in my profession, and I came up with a list that is probably not complete as it is and will be increased as we move towards end of the year testing.

Of course, there is the usual stuff of coming up with weekly lesson plans, daily grading, establishing classroom rules, and creating syllabi.  In addition to those we have to:

Give a Common Formative Assessment (CFA)every two weeks or so testing a different objective

Grade the CFAs

Disaggregate our results into: those mastering objective, those not mastering the objective, those who have mastered/not mastered the objected who are English Language Learners (ELL) or Special Education (SPED) students

Provide examples of our CFAs for our immediate supervisors

Provide examples of our remediation material

Remediate those who have not mastered the CFA

Retest those who have not mastered the CFA to see if they now have mastered the CFA

Set our consequences for tardies

Administer consequences for tardies

Do the same for classroom disrupters

Submit work for students who have been placed in In-School Intervention (ISI)

Submit work for students who have been assigned Out of School Suspension if they are suspended for more than 10 days

Meet with our Professional Learning Communities (fellow teachers in our subject area)

Submit reports of our meeting

Contact parents concerning their student's grades, attendance issues, tardies, classroom behavior problems, and also make positive contacts as well.

Record and report grades

Make lists of failing students and contact their parents

Attend workshops

Enforce school policy

Participate in parent/teacher conferences

Participate in SPED Individual Education Plans (IEPs)

Make modifications for students according to their IEPs

Come up with strategies for students who struggle with learning the lesson objectives

Differentiate instruction in accordance with students' learning styles

Find methods to accommodate ELL students

Do morning duty at our duty stations

Attend workshops

Enforce school policies

You know. Maybe I have a reason for feeling a bit blue every now and then.



Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Visit from an Old Enemy

Today my old enemy, depression, came for a visit.  I woke up at the usual time, 5am, and I could tell that I was in for a rough bout of it.  Moving around felt like walking in deep mud, talking felt like a chore, getting dressed felt like working in a low, slow gear. 

Depression is a family malady.  One of my uncle's nearly died from it, and I believe it shortened his life. Mine comes on slowly, and usually, I can get over it with a little effort, and by the time I get to school and get actively involved in teaching, it seems to go away. No such luck today.

I could really tell that I was in for an above average bout of depression when I felt happy to be held up by a freight train at the railroad crossing that is on the road to my school.  I needed some time to gather my thoughts.

After I got to school, I could not get going. I did not bring my chess games to the cafeteria as I usually do when I have morning duty like today.  I did not do well in my first two classes. I felt like I was teaching in a fog. 

Finally, I decided to let my immediate administrator know about my condition. She very kindly offered me the opportunity to go home once she found someone to cover my classes.  

I hate doing that, but I also worry that my presence could do more harm than good.  I am thankful for the way we look out for each other at Centennial. It's one of the reason I have chosen to remain there all these years.

I came home. Rested a bit. Took the dogs out of a long walk to get some fresh air. I think I am okay, and I plan to be there tomorrow. 

A psychiatrist once told me that the brain is an organ, and it gets sick just as other organs do.  So my brain was a bit on the puny side today.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

School to Prison Pipeline? A View from a Teacher

I am involved in several social justice groups and causes including my "social gospel" church Mayflower Congregational UCC, the AFT my teachers' union, the ACLU, and some other organizations as well.  One cause that has received much scrutiny in these groups is the "School to Prison Pipeline."  This is the claim that school policies unfairly target some students for harsh punishment like suspensions or expulsions, even incarceration where other students violating the same rules are not punished as harshly. Those who do receive unfair treatment are often ethnic minority students, LGBT students, and those students in Special Education.  These policies "channel" these students into our prison system. The prison industry, racism, underfunded and overcrowded schools, zero-tolerance policies, and even lazy teachers are typically blamed for the problem.

I can only report anecdotally about this problem as a teacher in urban education.  Today, I think, provides at least some insight into what really goes on when students are disciplined.  I would be interested in the opinion anyone who wished to comment on what happened today between me and a middle-school student and his hoodie.

I have morning duty in the cafeteria during breakfast.  I try to get there before most students arrive to supervise those eating there, usually around 7am or earlier.  I bring my chess equipment for those who enjoy playing a game or two in the morning.  Sometimes I will play with a student or two, but mostly I try to keep an eye out for trouble. 

Today, two middle school students were chasing each other, which can be dangerous in our very crowded cafeteria.  I told them to stop  at once.  One girl did, but the other boy tried to keep at it.  So I intervened and allowed the girl to go her own way.  I noticed that the boy still has his hood on, a violation of the school dress code. I told him to remove the hood. He refused to do so.  He tried to walk away from me still hooded. I followed.  I asked him his name. He refuse to give it to me and kept on walking.  I told him that all he had to do was remove his hood. He told me to leave him alone.  I followed him till met with the school principal who did know his name.  She told him to take his hood off. He refused her.  She then took him to the school office.  I am not sure what happened to him, but he likely was put in in-school suspension for defiance of authority. 

Now, someone might look at this incident and say that this was another example of the school to prison pipeline at work.  The boy was black.  I am sure other students had their hoods on that I did not confront. So from his point of view, I singled him out.  But should that have been a basis for ignoring his defiance?  

Some may even question why I made such a big deal out of a kid wearing a hood up.  Recently, we had some students get into the auditorium and a girl with them was assaulted.  The boys wore their hoods in order to escape recognition by our school security cameras.  So allowing students to wear hoods is at its heart a safety issue.

So, what should I have done other than what I felt I had to do?  All the young man had to do was comply, but his pride got in the way of any sense. 

Tomorrow I will be back in the cafeteria. I will be telling several students to take off their hoods.  I will be defied.


What should I do then?