Monday, March 31, 2008

Forgetting to Substitute


I'm not forgetting to go to jobs that I signed up for (although, from the teacher's perspective, I can tell you plenty of stories about subs who do forget!)

I'm forgetting that I meant to sub. That subbing was a major part of my plan for this year. That I was going to keep in touch with the kids that way, support the schools, have more blog material, and oh yeah - make $118 per subbing day. But I just keep forgetting. Forgetting to check the site for jobs, forgetting to tell the teachers I know that I can sub for them, and forgetting to decide if I'm going back to teaching next year.

Avoidance?

Possibly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yes, There is Still Racism in America

(or: Why Pat Buchanan is an idiot).

I can't let this go. Read it. Then all who are in favor of dumping Pat Buchanan into a violent neighborhood with polluted air, no grocery stores, bad schools, and falling down housing projects, please raise your hand.

Where to start?

I'm not even going to talk about Rev. Wright. Except to say that Obama is absolutely right when he says that we need to take into account the fact that there is the baggage of 350 years of segregation and slavery that he (and many black people) are dealing with.

No, let's focus on what Buchanan said. He says that we need to have a two-way conversation about race. That white America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to. Two problems come up already. 1. Anyone who can deny that white America is heard from has absolutely no idea what it is like to not be white in America. White America is heard from and has been heard from since there has been an America. 2. Anyone who thinks that Obama was lecturing did not actually watch his speech. There was no lecturing that I noticed.

Next, Buchanan says that
"America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American."

I actually had to leave the room and come back because that made me so angry. Was it OK to enslave and kill people because they got to become Christians? Now, I'm a Christian, and I love Jesus, but I don't believe for a second that he would have condoned the African slave trade or how slaveowners treated their slaves in America. Black people in this country may have reached great levels of freedom and prosperity in that they live in the richest nation ever, but that doesn't mean that they don't face racism every day, or that the legacy of slavery, lynchings and segregation doesn't affect them - yes, even still.

I don't have the stomach to go through all of this. Buchanan continues on to say that
"no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans... Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks."

"We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?"
Gratitude? Gratitude for doing the least we can do - and I do mean the least - to right the many, many wrongs over the last 400 years? The black communities should be getting down on their knees thanking white America for feeding them at soup kitchens?

Buchanan is not the only conservative to argue that the black community is failing, as evidenced by violence, school drop-outs, incarceration, and broken families. After teaching in a mostly black school for 8 years, I have seen all of these problems. And, fair or not, it is primarily up to the black community to change and solve these problems. However, let's be careful with our blame. Think about the effect that slavery (selling family members away from each other!) had on black families. Or the effect that lynchings had on young black men. It does not surprise me that, generations later, families are still struggling to be made whole and young black men are still angry enough to use violence. I am not saying that it is a good way to deal with things, just that we need to have some compassion and be slower to blame, when white America had a large part to do with breaking the black family.

"As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. " He then goes on to say that since black people assault whites more than the reverse, they are obviously to blame.

Wow.

I think the ugliest manifestation of racism is in children still, in 2008, believing that they aren't as good as white people. Why are they not as good? Because the TV tells them so, the police treat them differently, their schools are still largely separate but unequal, they are more likely to be convicted and get harsher sentences than white people, and are blamed, overlooked, or forgotten in our society.

It's entirely possible that if any of us were treated that way (oh, and they understand the difference between their schools and white schools. They know that if there was an attempted kidnapping at a white school, the police wouldn't take almost an hour to get there, like they did at our school), we would become violent and resentful. I'm pretty sure I would. Although many are, plenty of people in the black community aren't, and I think that makes them the better people.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Formaldehyde


Someone told me once that portable classrooms contain formaldehyde in the walls. I just read an article about formaldehyde being found in particleboard, medium-density fiberboard, and plywood. The article cites formaldehyde as being the cause of not only cancer, but respiratory allergies, asthma, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness.

Now, I realize that I am only a sample size of one, but I taught in a portable classroom for 5 or 6 years, and during those years, thought I had really bad asthma. I was sick a lot, I got bronchitis every year, which turned into at least a month of illness-induced asthma, complete with trips to the emergency room.

After I left the portable classroom, I have not had any of these symptoms. No coughing, no wheezing, no asthma.

Hmmmm.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Um, Who's Teaching Our Teachers?

A friend who works in my district recently had an interesting situation at a workshop/seminar type thing (maybe part of a lecture series?) The talk was entitled, "What Do Struggling Readers Need from All of Us." Apparently the woman delivering the talk worked a number of interesting comments into the talk including:
  • Kids running around like "Indians and banshees."
  • Women (in general, all women) not wanting to make left hand turns, but preferring to make four right hand turns. Think about that one. Draw a diagram if you need to.
  • Make sure you don't work your kids like a slave driver.
  • Some sort of homage to September 11 and good old Uncle Sam.
I kind of wish I had been there! That's quality professional development time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pay Raises? Nope.



Once again, my district shows that they do not value teachers. Well, to be fair, our lovely governator doesn't either, with his 10% education cuts. Seriously? Education cannot survive more cuts! I mean, it really can not. I understand that we have to cut spending to balance the budget, and I'm not sure what should be done, but education can't take any more cuts!!

A few years back, instead of getting a cost of living increase, the teachers in my district got a 4% pay cut. It was very discouraging, because we already spend a ton of our own money on supplies and are unappreciated in basically every way possible. Now, the district is thinking about doing it again.

The public education system cannot take much more of these cuts. Teachers can't take much more of these cuts. The good people who are competent keep leaving - hey, I did! I can make as much money with a lot less stress - oh, and without being disrespected. I just can't believe that people are going to put up with less pay, less respect, more testing, less freedom in teaching methods and more hoops to jump and money to pay through for the privilege of doing this.

It's gotten ridiculous.

Monday, March 17, 2008

If I Were President, I Would Melt All of the Guns

There is an interesting blog post by the Tribune's education reporter on"If I were president..." Written by third graders very near my old school, it touches me because they are very similar responses to those that my students have had in the past. They are from the same area. Note the focus on getting rid of guns.

I'd like to take everyone who goes on and on about their Second Amendment rights to come and talk to these kids and hear their experiences with guns. It would make for an interesting dialogue.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Gentrification and Rubber Rooms

From This American Life: the introductory part isn't about education but the first two out of the three main acts are and are very interesting... listen to it.

More reasons I'm glad I'm not teaching right now: One of the more "challenging" children - who really has no parental involvement in her life at all and needs STRUCTURE - is apparently prank calling her both at school and on the teacher's cell phone... I don't know what the administration is doing to help the teacher but I would guess absolutely nothing. That's what my district does best - not support their staff.