Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Go Blue!

High Standards! Try that one on for size, Spot. You look beautiful with that big smile and that gorgeous blue ribbon dangling down the front of you. You're one brilliant doggie, Spot. I'm so proud of you!

Instead of blue ribbons, though, our schools have been bogged down in UNFUNDED MANDATES from the previous administration's No Child Left Behind debacle. (Download it, and tuck it under your pillow, you'll be asleep in ten seconds for sure!)
On top of that, we have the IDEA program, designed to maintain students in an environment that will best serve their special needs while promoting their learning without creating a label to do it. Careful testing and retesting, datakeeping and monitoring are required here in order to make this program work. In Connecticut, we call it SRBI or "serbie"...Scientific Research-based Intervention.

As an example, Spot? Today...I was off revamping a systematic schoolwide approach to handling student behavior. This in itself would be something our teachers could do on their own, given some good orderly direction and an initiative from our own in-district leadership. Instead, we're forced to employ the services of SERC, the State Education Resource Center, paying an enormous sum for 6 days this year, and then 6 more for the next two years, of inservicing in the area of behavior. Behavior! Substitute teachers=about $4,000, the cost of the inservicing...well, that is unknown to me. But. Every town in the state of CT must go through this process. And, every town in the state must pay for it themselves.

In light of all this, the previous Republican administration that touts the trouble of big-government has actually stuck their very big hand in our pot, and is now raking in the dough, squeezing it right out of our small home-grown school districts. When we go to the voting booth these days? Our citizenry is at each other's throats over the little nitty gritty pieces of class-sizes, gym teachers (Forget childhood obesity, Mrs. Obama...we know you're right, but that makes too much sense!), pencils, paper, paper clips, etc. The townspeople are looking at the schools as the big ugly elephant stuck in the middle of their towns.

But in reality? Our schools really would just love to work toward the positive...that little blue ribbon! Get rid of your programs, and let us get back to the business of working toward a standard that all children can and will achieve. Give us mucho bucks and incentives for winning that big blue sucker! And you know what? We'll rise to the occasion without all these ridiculously expensive initiatives that no one in their right mind would fund even IF they could. Just give the dog a bone, right Spot?! You knew it all along!

Spot: Tell everyone you know! Join us at NHS, 7 PM and wear blue! We're going for the blue in our hometown of Newtown. And...with or without the money, we'll just have to show them all!
What say ye, parents, friends and countrymen/women?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Future of our Democracy: Education!

Are you really spying on me, Spot? You have got to have more going on in your life than that. Really! It's vacation week.

I have been thinking about you too, though. And...I've been thinking a lot about the troubles in this world too. You see, I'm here in a place where people grumble a lot. And...they like to blame a lot on top of all that grumbling. I've heard it, sitting around the pool down here in this little vacation resort of mine.

Taxes? Well, the perception of these people down here, is that they have more taxation without representation. The truth? Have they looked at their tax bills? No. If they did, they'd see that the middle class is looking to make some gains for a change. The upper the 250Ks are having a turn though. Guess that makes for grumbles.

A LOT of grumbling about the idea that not everybody needs to be pulled up by their bootstraps in our society. Hmmmm. Not everybody? Well, where do we draw the line? Good education will pull everyone up. Is that not a basic right of our society? And okay, healthcare. Do these people not know that they HAVE been paying for all the people that don't have insurance all along? These are the things that all the hidden costs are made of. The health insurance business is a very crafty machine.

Oh, Spot...I sit here and watch my Mets with great hope and worry too. But just like my Mets, the United States has a magic about it that always seems to find a way to rise above it all. The answer here is a large dose of EDUCATION to combat all this misinformation. I'll be racing home to you soon, Spot. I have a few more weeks to get you reading...and thinking and forging ahead. Your generation will change it all. But I hope I don't have to wait that long!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sharpening their Pencils!

Well, everyone, they're off to the races. It's all about who can outsharpen whom! Lots of people making lots of pointed remarks about kids and dollars, and all the ways they can be served if we just reign in that almighty dollar.

Meanwhile, back at the farm...I mean, school room, we have kids to educate. So, once again, they're getting ready to make cuts, and once again, I've allowed myself to get side-tracked. No one ever asks the teachers for their ideas, so why do I even allow myself to get so far off the beam and into that political arena. My town, it seems, has an endless array of boards with pockets hanging out all over the place. I just don't get why one side of the budget can take it all, and the schools can be left hanging. What, I ask you, brings in the best value for the property value in the long run?'s certainly not the roads department. I give up.

Today, kids in the classroom were working on laptops, composing stories and collaborating to put them into power points to present them...just like the African gogo does. On the other side of the wall, kids were belting out Broadway, literally! They've made up songs to go along with their understanding of weather and how it affects our globe. Some of the funniest singing you'd ever want to hear, by the way. Gotta love that 12 year old boy falsetto. They didn't care! They were proud as punch of their new-found talents. So now? We'll have a little American Idol. Why not? Storytelling, songwriting, conceptual understanding...that is what education is all about. And that, my dear Spot...I can deliver--for a song!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Budget Chopping

Today, I'm leaving you right out of the conversation, Spot. I can't deal with little ears, when the big pitchers are throwing around such ill-aimed fast balls. And that is just what they are. FAST BALLS with no aim toward the future. Just the almighty dollar in mind. Efficiency without foresight is a bust. Can't they see that?

Last night, our town's BOE threw around an idea. Well, certainly they have that right, that's what we hope they'll do. Toss around, brainstorm, come up with solutions. The bottom line is always the number of teaching positions. But really? That is the quick route to final disaster.
Protecting the classroom should always be the bottom line. The spotlight should be shined on all non-academic line items right from the start.

Our young students now have the luxury of going from kindergarten to fourth grade without a disruption. Those of us that have taught those years know how critical they are for not only the learning curve, but the social groundwork that will lead to their future.

We live in a town that is 63 square miles, one of the largest in the state of CT. It takes an eternity to move from one side of town to the other. When my kids were little, it often took up to 35 minutes to get to some of their friends' houses. I always thought they chose their friends according to where they lived and how much they could torture me!

But now? I think about these new ideas and I think about the poor moms that have to deal with a split...perhaps having a first, third and fifth grader in three different schools. Has anyone considered the transitional preparations that will have to occur to help kids and families adjust to the new people and places they'll face? And what about the disruption to the flow of instruction that is sure to follow? When little ones are in one school, feel secure in that place...why not leave it and let them learn? If it ain't broke to begin with, do we really need to shatter it all at one time?

Well, I am one tax-paying voice, and haven't found much success in making my ideas known. After all, I'm just a teacher, what would I know? When you talk about your budget at home, I'm sure you don't invite your kids to the table. Imagine that conversation, "Sorry...we have to cut Johnny's extra snacks, and no birthday parties for Sally this weekend." Or better still..."Even though Sally is invited to Greta's birthday party, we're going to redistrict that and send Sally to the same party as Johnny. That way, we can cut that extra present out, and Sally and Johnny will bring just one gift to one friend instead." You'd never want Sally and Johnny to have their say in that.

So...I guess everything is just as it should be. I'll sit home, expect the worst, and anything better than that will just make my day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hold on, Spot!

My patience is strained this week, Spot...but I know it's only because I, like you, need a well-deserved rest. We've been going at it since January 2nd or so, and we've all reached our breaking point, that's for sure. The birds and the bees are all full of buzz, and the classroom walls just can't contain the energy that's bubbling up inside. Tomorrow, the weatherman assures us an incredible, blue sky 85 degree day.

Spring fever? Well, you betcha! So, it looks like we're just gonna have to readjust our day. My lesson plan book is stuffed full of objectives and game plans to finish off the curriculum for the year. May and June are busy months in school, with field trips and performances, ppts, 504s, and everything else that could possibly disrupt our flow. But you know what, Spot? I have to remember who you are...and what you are able to do, and if I can teach it to you while I toss a frisbee at your face, I just might be willing to make that work! After all, it really is all about you, Spot...and when the outside world comes calling, we'll have to be certain to answer that call.