Sunday, May 17, 2015

Where This is Headed

Recently, the First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a graduation rant to the graduates of Tuskeegee Institute. Where she could have lauded them for their accomplishments and encouraged them to reach for a future better than today, she instead chose to lament her status as the unpaid captive of the gilded cage of the White House. While there are those who dismiss this as meaningless, I believe it reveals the mindset of the Obama White House at large. Despite winning elections that would require not just black votes, but votes from every other demographic of our nation, the Obama White House persists in believing they are under some sort of siege because of their race.

This attitude has been suggested for years. When a Cambridge celebrity professor tried to bully his way with a Cambridge police officer in spite of not having any identification when a break in was alleged at his house, Obama immediately saw race first and said the cop "acted stupidly". Obama ignored that in any sort of breaking and entering situation, police must operate as if the unsub is inside until proven otherwise. The black professor pulling the "Don't You Know Who I Am Card" didn't help the situation. In spite of a laughable Rose Garden Beer Summit, the evidence was there that Obama always views issues through the lens of race first.

Let's consider how this has managed to endanger police and civilians. While black males make up a minority of the population at large, they are far more represented in legal actions with police. Yet, statistics also show that police are far less likely to shoot at a black suspect than a white one for fear of the type of retaliation at large supported by the DOJ and White House in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. Eric Holder-gone but not lamented- far too often went the route of seeking out cased to create a public furor designed to stampede people into a particular mindset. That kind of action blew up on him with Fast and Furious-a program which has still not been fully investigated for criminal intent. Yet it seemed to me when Obama's numbers were lagging in the polls another of these inflammatory cases would erupt. Why are we concerned about thugs (and yes, thugs can be any color despite attempts to coopt the word) getting shot during a crime and not concerned about gangbangers killing each other in Chicago and Philly and LA? Why is this president, who seems enamored with numbers, not concerned that more cops have been shot this year than in prior years?

What does this mean for society at large? What I am seeing in my very diverse middle class school is an attitude of defiance, especially from young black males. Case one-hall duty-a table of black students start throwing trash in front of our very sweet Hispanic head custodian then shouting "Me no habla" at her. I went over and asked them to stop, where one young male immediately started yelling "It wasn't me". I told him I wasn't writing him up, I was just asking him to stop. Then he comes over to me and keeps going at the debate. I'm outnumbered-not an administrator in sight. How am I supposed to counter nine kids at a table?  Case two-just this week-two young couples (both couples were black but that doesn't matter because I would have done this with ANY couple) were sitting on the floor eating lunch (there are tables...) and then they were lying all over each other with one young man grinding against his girlfriend. I asked them to stop and again, one young man (it may be the same one) gets in my face defying me to do anything. Again-I'm outnumbered-no administrator, no other teachers.

Across the board the talk of the teachers workroom is the escalation of defiance, rudeness, lack of respect for teachers and for each other. And I'm sorry, but I'm seeing far more of this with black students than any other category. I don't go out of my way to single out individuals or groups. But when one group is repeatedly acting out and disrupting classes it appears that someone has told them it's okay. So are their role models-the president, his wife, celebrities, rappers-basically giving these kids the opinion that they can do anything and get away with it? It appears so to me. I wonder if other teachers across the nation are seeing similar issues.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A New Concern

I've been told it's provocative to call anything a rant. As a result I will couch this collection of thoughts in the form of loose prose or free verse. But really.....

I teach. I am the daughter of a teacher and the mother of a teacher. I know my stuff. One of my earliest memories is setting up my stuffed toys in front of my blackboard in my room and teach them letters and numbers. I taught my kids in the ways normal parents do-through a combination of structure, repetition, extortion, threats and love. My kids grew up to be very good kids. I am proud of all of them. I think my husband and I did things right by them. There were soccer teams and ballet recitals, band concerts and plays. We supported them, we watched them, we participated. I am nearly 60 and I am deeply worried about today's youth.

I have taught for quite awhile. I have had other jobs as well. I've been in sales. I've been a graphic designer. I even stayed home and did the volunteer thing for a few years. It isn't working that is causing parents to become meaningless entities to their children-it is the isolation of social media. Fifteen years ago, when I returned to the classroom, cell phones were rarely owned by students. Some of the older kids from wealthier families provided them for kids, but for the most part it was rare. Today kids from the age of nine have phones. And the phones they possess have all the internet access of my first PC. These kids have secret lives, habits, friends and activities that their parents do not know about. Sadly, in many cases it appear that the ego of the parents doesn't allow them to believe their children could ever EVER do anything wrong. I beg to differ.

We have students who are in serious, precarious positions and as teachers we can do little about it. This goes beyond drinking and drugs into some seriously dark areas of our culture. I have to wonder what a kid is thinking when they intentionally don the persona of alternative lifestyles for the purpose of popularity. Don't be fooled by the goofy face of anime and events like A-con-there are some very dark and dangerous places on that road. Too many parents mistake animation for childish. Ask any Japanese businessman if the comics he reads on the train ride home are fit for his five year old to enjoy.

More than this is the benign neglect of parents. Too many of the current generation of 30 somethings are so busy navel gazing they ignore their children until something happens then they attack at will. This is doubly so with special needs students. We have parents who bully ridiculous IEP's from schools under the threat of lawsuits. I've seen everything from allowing a student who was bipolar with Down's Syndrome jump up and down in a general ed classroom of 34 to release tension to allowing an emotionally disturbed six foot four male to threaten to kill a teacher every single day of a term until he was removed for threatening a school board member's daughter. While ADA was meant to provide an adequate education to students with challenges who were capable of on level work, it is now being used to force districts to provide what amounts to free daycare and medical hospice facilities in the schools for special needs students who are living in attendance zones. What is more, while teachers and counselors can currently disagree with outrageous demands made by parents in ARD's and renegotiate the agreement, starting in September anything a parents wants they can get. Anything. It's a blank check.

So while your kid sits in an overcrowded classroom with not enough computer access or enough books next year because your school can't afford those things, remember that the special needs kids down the hall may have teachers and aides on a one to one ratio and be provided with everything from special meals, facilities, equipment and transportation. While nobody wants to deprive any students who can learn, is this really the best use of our money to provide daycare for special needs students? Shouldn't we be more worried about those kids who are able to learn who are falling through the cracks? There used to be schools and training facilities to allow special needs children to learn to make the most of their lives. Those have been closed by the same parents who are bullying schools into compliance.

I look at my class of over 30 and I know at least five will be special needs or ELL. I know I will have to document everything they do every day. I know that at least one, and maybe two, should be in an AVLS or BIC room because their behavior and comprehension is way out of line. But ADA ties our hands, allowed regular classrooms to be disrupted by students who cannot handle the pressure of regular educational settings. The parents insist on this type of setting because they desperately want their kids to be normal. They want to pretend that by being in a general education classroom they are learning the same stuff. For awhile the students do try to be kind and tolerate the behavioral upsets. But by the end of the year, those same students resent that they have no time to have their questions or concerns addressed. They are tired of having their projects destroyed and being lashed out at by students who cannot control themselves. Whatever sympathy the parents that push ADA standards hoped to engender is lost when other students get stuck taking up the slack.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

I Love To Win

I don't win often because I tend to try to be a team player. So when my department was getting stonewalled on trying to buy art supplies at a significant discount by purchasing them over the summer, I do a little happy dance. We had been offered a chance to buy supplies at a 35% discount and would not be billed until the next school year. Yet, She Who Shall Not Be Named repeatedly told us no. No we couldn't do it because we would have to charge tax. No we couldn't do it because that wasn't the way we had always done it. Nevermind that the building principal thought it was a great way to manage around without having to dive into his rainy day fund. She Who Shall Not Be Named would not consider that other schools in my district are using this program. She wouldn't consider it even when the Shiningn  Example high schools were named. In one last attempt, a middle school teacher explained how she managed to work the program and which accounts to use. I sent it to her saying that I wish she would consider. Instead she demanded all my documentation and warned she was "taking it to the Finance Dept." Later that day I got a terse "come see me" email. Fearing the worst, I waiting until later in the day only to find that Finance thought it was a GREAT IDEA and wondered why OTHER SCHOOLS WEREN"T USING IT. I don't want the accolades, but honestly this has been a tough year and to get one win.....well that may just help me make it through the next seven weeks.

Onto AP testing.........