Sunday, February 28, 2010

Following my path....

This past Tuesday I received a random call from a public school which had a 5th grade job opening, and on Wednesday I interviewed. Now I've had a job application online for 3 years....this is the second interview I've had. The job sounded like the sort I am good at - starting with low achieving students late in the year. Bottom line - I didn't get the job - got a rejection email on Saturday morning. The premise of the job was disturbing (but at the time, I'm not going to question it - it IS a teaching job!!). The principal was taking 4 students from each of the 5th grade homerooms and placing them with this new teacher. They would not be told ahead of time. All of the students failed portions of the state's testing, and the purpose of starting this new classroom is to bring up test scores this year. However, the test is less than two months away. A tall order to ask students to leave friends, bond with a new teacher, and improve their scores. Still, I felt I was a good candidate, and it hurts to be passed over. I am trying to follow the path that God has placed before me, wherever it leads. I am grateful that I am getting enough sub jobs to make my raggedy budget! I especially like getting to know the students I see every Friday at the private school for students who learn "differently." I like to think I teach differently!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hanging together on Valentine's Day

My husband and I took a Valentine's Day walk on the beach yesterday afternoon. Even the shore birds seemed to appreciate the sun, either lazily floating on the calm, low tide, or sitting and standing clustered facing into the sun. The 50 something temps were eased by the strong sun, with not a wisp of a cloud to challenge it. I just finished reading an interesting book - Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup, who lost her first husband in a car accident, became an ordained chaplain, and remarried. She says that while 50% of marriages end in divorce, 100% end period, meaning that all of our lives are going to END. So I start off my work week - 3 days of being a gifted teacher sub at a public school, and 1 day at my regular part-time Friday teaching gig - trying to remember to appreciate each day, most moments if not these are finite by definition.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dropping out....

The local paper ran an article yesterday about the state of Georgia possibly raising the dropout age from 16 to 17. For many, I know the gut reaction is, "Great, keep them in school and off the street!" But I believe this will have a detrimental effect on our already floundering local system, leading to more chaos in the classroom, more budget woes, and more student flight to online learning and private schooling. I grew up in this system, taught in this system for six years, have a husband teaching in this sytem, and have a son in high school in this system. I know whereof I speak! I commend our board superintendent for advising caution, and I applaud the board reps who are against the change.

Our high schools are largely "run" by the miscreants, in the sense that they drive most policy decisions, school climate and academic opportunities. Should everyone have the same resources and opportunities? OF COURSE! But students who WANT to be in school and students who DO NOT WANT to be in school need very different approaches. Forcing a student to stay in school will not improve the outcome.

At my son's school, students who don't care about their education often trash the cafeteria and hallways, and partake and sell drugs in some restrooms. At school assemblies, they yell and almost riot. The boy's restrooms have no doors or toilet paper (sound like another institution? prison maybe?). He is fortunate in that he qualifies for AP classes, with great teachers and students. However, he still has to survive inside the school building. Due to changes we made to his schedule earlier this year, he was in a lower level English class for about two weeks, until thankfully a spot opened up in an AP class. The students threw books in the room and took his paper to copy answers all around the room. As a teacher, I talked about just doing your work, trying to connect with peers, etc. He remarked, "well, all the white students talk about beating up gay people, and all the black students talk about how much they hate whites. I don't think I can connect with those two mentalities."

My husband teaches in the system at a middle school. The alternative schools have a revolving door, with students coming back and forth, causing chaos in the regular school when they return. I strongly believe in alternative settings, but you need adequate resources and you need to keep students there for the year, possibly permanently. Three strikes and you're out is not a bad idea. I taught at a private institution that had resident students who have gone through the foster care system and were in danger of incarceration, and day students who had either been kicked out of public or private schools. Class sizes were small, and teachers had training to meet the needs of the student population. Everyone was in the same boat, so to speak. I like to say I saw miracles happen, but those miracles often took several years.

I challenge churches and civic groups to step up and help our young people - don't put it all on our already taxed school system. I challenge every board member to visit the schools they serve on a daily basis, and drop in unannounced in classrooms, lunchrooms and yes, even restrooms. Not to spy but to get a good sense of what teachers and administrators are dealing with. This is not the year to step up the dropout age; not until everyone can step up and admit we have a huge problem that needs fixing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Feeding the soul and spirit

I obviously have more free time this week! No substitute jobs lined up. Since the weather here in Georgia has been much colder and wetter than I ever remember (yes, I know, at least we are not dealing with snow), I took two hours to wander on the beach. There is nothing like feeling the morning sun on your face, and a cool breeze in your hair!

Minding our manners and our selves...

I just finished up a week and a half substitute teaching at a school I taught at previously, a private one that educates students with learning differences. I really, really love working with students who really need individualized help!

While certainly many students had trouble with anger control and anxiety, I was so impressed with the social skills they are learning! Some middle schoolers introduced themselves and shook my hand! Actually, of the three private schools I have worked at, all three emphasized manners (and two served special populations). The private school that was general acadmics for pre-K through 8th grade has always stressed "minding your manners."

However, all around me I see so many students and adults who have left basic civility by the wayside. I hope and pray that manners will not be engulfed by a caveman mentality and washed out to sea!