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Showing posts from 2010

Home Schooling

A dear friend of mine told me she may be home schooling her daughters. I have compiled a list of things to realistically consider when deciding to home school or not.

1. Do you (the home schooling parent) have enough time and energy to invest in this?  Teaching is a full-time job.  Remember that.  Full-time.  You can't do it justice if you treat it as any less.

2. Do you have any experience teaching?  Being good at something is not enough.  Many people are good at things and totally incapable of teaching them.  Do you know any teaching strategies?  Do you know how to communicate ideas and facts in a way that will help your child or children learn effectively?

3. Do you have a curriculum?  Do you know anything about the curriculum or anyone who has used it?  Do you have all the material for the curriculum?

4. Do you have a plan for your children to meet other children?  Preferably children outside of their own racial/socio-economic/religious groups?  This, in my opinion, is one of…

More Dreams

My dream is to be a pediatrician because I want kids to be safe and have a better Life and have someone who cares about them.
The reason I want to be a peditairican so I can help kids so They can be smart in school what I like about a pediatricain that I get to help small children and be heathly because some kids can die because the don't eat fruit and stuff so they won't be so sick and I want chidlen to Live heathly Lives like we do we want children to Live as Long as us.
[that girl routinely ate Flamin' Hot Cheetos with nacho cheese and a Pepsi for breakfast]

I want to be a sience teacher because I get to help students with sience and school problems and they can trust me with anything.  I want it because I can study animals because nature is interesting.

I have a dreem.  I have a dream to be a spy so I can spy on People and take them to jail and help People and I will have to learn hard at shcool to be a sPy and I what to work for the CiA and so I can get money for a car a…

My Dream is to Help Children

From one of the most troubled students I've ever had: (her spelling wasn't good either)

She needed this type of help.  More than almost every child I've ever met.

My dream is to help chridren.  Because I have two help chrildren.  And enven if I had to help arofens I would treat them as my own chridren.  The chrildren I am going to help.  I hope they belive in there self. 

In maybe part of the reason the chrildren ar poor I think maybe because they didn't get a good edecation.

I really care for chridren.  I watch a lot of shows of poor chrildren.  And I hate what I see.
One year ago: The Good and Bad of the Year

Three years ago: The Money That I'm Owed

Four years ago: Computers!

Hey! I'm Smart!

My eighth grade student, while working on his history homework:

"Why did the US Capitol switch from New York City to Washington, DC?  Oh, I know.  It was to compromise because the South didn't want to pay off the North's debts so they got to have the capitol... Hey!!  I'm SMART!!!"

Three years ago: So Outta There
More School Closures

I'm White Too

I had a realization when I went to pick up my Little Sister at her housing development (projects) this weekend.  There is very little difference between the Section 8 housing projects in Oakland and the segregated South or South Africa under apartheid.  I've been there on weekends, on weekdays, in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night.  I have never ever seen another white person.  Not one.  I have not even seen a Latino or Asian person.  I have only seen African-American people there - visitors or residents.

I think I would have noticed earlier if I hadn't been so used to being the only white person when I was teaching.  I still have the feeling sometimes of being in a group and thinking, "Oh my goodness, everyone here is white except for me!  Wait a minute, I'm white too!"  It sounds silly but it's a fairly common occurrence for me. 

It's fairly disconcerting to realize how very segregated our city can still be.  In the Bay Area, in California, i…

Dropouts

The new figure for high school dropouts in Oakland Unified is 40%

That's doesn't count the number of kids who drop out before high school.  A lot of kids drop out before then - during middle school or between middle and high school.  I'd like to see figures about the total dropout rates.  I think it would be terrifying.

Three years ago: The Best Form of Birth Control

Four years ago: The Playground

Angel

I'm going to give all the parents out there a little tip.  Don't ever name your child Angel. I don't care if you pronounce it the English or Spanish way, don't do it.  There is a 99.9% chance that your child will do everything in his or her power to *not* live up to that name.  I've had 5 or 6 kids named Angel over the years - from various ethnic backgrounds - and it has not been good.  Interestingly, the Angelas and Angelinas I've known who go by Angel are fine.  Just avoid Angel.

Also, I think being a teacher gives you a much smaller pool of potential names than other people.  I've heard people talk about what they want to name their children and many of them make me cringe - not because the  names are bad but because I remember a child with that name.  It goes the other way too; it's just not as memorable.

One year ago: Things You Hope You Never Hear from a Third Grader

Three years ago: To Be Expected
Playing Businessman on BART

Four years ago: Turnin…

Vote for My Niece!

Look at this face!  If you vote for this face, she could be on the Gerber baby food labels!  More importantly, she could win a $25,000 scholarship!  You have to give them your email address but I so far haven't gotten any spam from them, so I think it's OK.  You can vote once a day.  Help Symphony win!!

One year ago: Reflections on Public Education

Three years ago: Tales from BART

Four years ago: I Knew What They Meant, But...

Compassion

I have a hard time with rich people.  And I have a fairly low threshold regarding who I consider to be rich people.  However, since I need to tutor kids whose parents can afford to pay me, I've been working with more people who I consider to be rich, or at least well-off.

I was worried about this- I've been working pretty exclusively with kids in poverty before this, and I thought the wealthier kids would be harder for me - more entitled, more spoiled, etc.  This is true in part, but not entirely.  I had a lesson in how rich kids aren't necessarily this way with a little girl I work with.

This girl, who's about 9 years old, goes to a very expensive, very prestigious private school.  She is chatty, and started asking me about the kids I used to teach.  She asked if I tutored any of the kids who I used to teach.  When I said no, she asked why.  I said, "Well, most of them don't have the money to pay for tutoring."  She said, "Can't their parents pa…

Learning Conditions

It's always been interesting to me how conditions in an educational setting can be so much worse than in any other sort of work environment, and it is accepted.  Everything from asbestos to temperature to total incompetence at the upper levels is accepted.  Here's a very simple example of something that wouldn't be tolerated in any other setting.

Classrooms are cold because the heat isn't working in many of the Oakland schools.  I have only rarely had that happen, but I've had the opposite happen.  I subbed for a friend in November a few years ago and t was literally ninety degrees in the classroom because the thermostat was broken.  It was miserable.

Read the comments  I especially like the commenter who says it's California, what are you complaining about?  I'd love to see his business environment lack heat - yes, even in California - and him put up with it because we're not in New England.

Why should the teachers (and the kids) have to expect poor con…

Alternate Gift Ideas

If you haven't already spent your life savings on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, I have some ideas for you.  A lot of us have too much stuff - at least in this country.  Instead, it might be nice to do something good - something that is necessary and might not happen otherwise - in someone's honor. 

Some ideas:


Big Brothers Big Sisters - you can donate your time or money to help kids who really need it.

Donors Choose - you can choose the type of project you want to fund, according to what your loved one would appreciate. (I greatly benefited from this site when I was a classroom teacher)


Kiva- microloans, and you can give gift cards so your loved one can choose what to loan money to.


Faith Network - an organization that helps public schools in Oakland and the surrounding area.  (It's a Christian organization but they don't proselytize.  They do teach reading and writing, which is a huge help.)

I also have very close ties with an orphanage in Mexico that doesn't have a …

Some Reading

I'm in New York visiting my brother and sister-in-law, so here's some reading for all of you.

An article about how black boys are doing in school (some very interesting points).

Teacher credentialing programs should be totally changed around.

Happy Black Friday!  Try not to buy too much stuff.

Three years ago: No News and No Clothes

Four years ago: Vacation is Over
Rainy Day Routine

Illegal Immigration - Is ThereAny Other Kind?

I had a bit of a disturbing conversation with the teenager I tutor yesterday.  He asked me the definition of "immigration."  When I told him it was people moving to another country to live there, he disagreed.  He said, "You forgot the illegal part."  We talked about it and it turns out that he had only ever heard of illegal immigration.  Every time immigration was discussed on TV or in any other context he had heard, it was illegal.  He had NO IDEA that there was legal immigration.  Does that say anything about the tone of the discussion in this country?

Three years ago: Dreaming of Teaching

Four years ago: No Child Left Behind

Inside a Child's Mind...

...is a very interesting place.

Today my 10-year old tutoring client informed me that "High school is mating season."

The teacher of the second grade class I volunteer with let the kids pick their own group names.  The names are:

Giants
Christmas
Kindly
Tigers
Snakes

I particularly like that one of the group names is an adverb.

Three years ago: Purple Hair
Gulliver in Hookerland

Why I Don't Want to See Harry Potter

First of all, I realize the title of the post will set some people off.  How's this: I promise not to judge you for seeing Harry Potter, or for getting excited about the movies.  I'm just not that interested.


I first read Harry Potter  in 2000, right before book four came out.  Someone gave me book one for Christmas and I read it at some point during my first year of teaching and it was amazing.  Magical.  Wonderful.  I read two and three pretty quickly and then started becoming one of those people who counts down the days until the next Harry Potter book.  Even more exciting, so did many of my students.  I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my third grade class and they absolutely loved it.  After I read it to them, many of them ordered it themselves from the book order, re-read it, bought book two, borrowed mine - they were hooked.  We didn't have a real reading curriculum that year, and one of the fifth grade teachers just photocopied chapters of the book…

Vampire White

I'm going to suggest that the makers of my face powder change the name to "Vampire White."  Those of you who know me know that I am on the white side of white.  If you've been reading my blog, you know that the neighborhood where I was teaching had a distinct lack of white people.  Many of the kids had never interacted with white people except for the teachers at the school.  This led to some interesting conversations.

This is another Halloween story.  There was a girl, named "Mary," who was a tall African-American girl, beautiful, athletic, and smart.  I had never had Mary in my class but she came to visit me most days.

Mary had beautiful dark brown skin and, on this particular Halloween, was dressed as a vampire.  I was helping several kids with their makeup.  Most of them wanted to be kitties so I was doing kitty noses and whiskers with my eyeliner.  It was a cheap eyeliner and they had no Halloween costumes, so it was a worthwhile sacrifice.

I turned ar…

Segregation

I've recently seen this graphic around the web, and heard a few people say that it's a great example of how Oakland is a "rainbow of diversity."  I wish I could insert the graphic here, but it won't work, so please take a minute to look at it.  The different colors represent different ethnicities.  If you don't recognize Oakland, it's on the right side of the bay and has a blue section (African-American) at the northwest end and a blue section at the southeast end.  Green and orange (Asian and Latino) are in the middle and red (Caucasian) in the hills.

I guess that it is a rainbow of diversity in that there are separate stripes of color.  But it's not integrated.  It's not diverse.  The city as a whole is diverse, but the neighborhoods are not.  It reminds me of a time that someone told me that one of the high schools was "really diverse."  Someone else looked at her strangely, and said "Um, all black isn't diverse.  It's al…

Obama

Everyone is talking about whether or not they agree with Obama and what the midterm elections show as far as if people like him or not... I just want to share again why it is so important that we now have a black president.  So here it is, from two years ago:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008
A Black President I am so excited.

First, let me say that I did not vote for Barack Obama because he is black. I voted for him because I thought he was the better candidate, and will make the better president. I think he will help how the rest of the world sees the United States. I don't think he is the Messiah and I'm sure I will be disappointed in him at times during the next 4 (or 8) years. However, I think this is the right direction for America to go in and I am thrilled because of the person we have elected, while still being unbelieving.

However.

While a lot of me wants to rant about how I can be a Christian and still be a Democrat, how liberal is not a bad word, how pro-life s…

I'm a Lizard

Quick Halloween story (a little late - I lost my beloved dog on Halloween).

On Halloween, one of my colleagues was dressed up as a bee.  He wore a black and yellow striped rugby shirt, big bug sunglasses, antennae, and wings.  This kid, "Timmy," walked up to him and said, "Mr. M, what are you supposed to be?"  Mr. M just looked at him and decided to go for making fun of the gullible kid.  He said, "Timmy, I'm a lizard."

Timmy looked at him carefully and said, "That's funny."

He ran back to me and said, "Did you know Mr. M is dressed up as a lizard?  The weird thing is that he looks just like a bee!"

Three years ago: They Can't Keep Employees? Really?  What a Surprise!

Four years ago: Eating Lunch!  Or not.

Solomon

My wonderful doggie passed away last night.  I'll have another school Halloween story soon, but for now I'm just missing the doggie.










Two years ago: Random Political Thoughts

Three years ago: A Brief Political Note

Halloween Parties

In honor of today being the school day that most elementary schools had Halloween parties, I'd like to state for the record:

Halloween is the worst day of the year for elementary school teachers. 

I'm sure there are some highly energetic, dedicated, fun-loving teachers who love this day best but I was never one of them.  It's a day full of sugar, anticipation of sugar, secret candy being snuck  into school, costume malfunctions, kids who don't get the memo that costumes are not to be worn until AFTER lunch, over-involved parents showing up way too early, uninvolved parents forgetting to come, religious parents pulling their kids out of school, teachers who dress in wildly inappropriate outfits*, and general chaos.

The next worst days (in order) in the elementary school calendar, from the teacher's perspective, are:

2. Valentine's Day (sugar, sugar, and exclusion)
3. St. Patrick's Day (pinching?  Really?)
4. the day before Christmas vacation.

My favorite thin…

This is What I'm Talking About

This is something from one of my favorite bloggers. He is a disability rights activist and does some pretty incredible work.  It's pretty incredible how many people he has affected, and mostly people who are not "valued" by many people in society.  Yet someone actually said to him that it's too bad he has no children, nothing to send into the future.

What?

Aren't all these kids ours?  Shouldn't they be?

So I'm not repeating myself too badly, you can read about MY kids here, here, and here.

I really do believe that we would ALL -- parents, children, and childless adults -- be better off if we thought of them more as OUR children.  And loved them all like they were our children.

Three years ago: Book Clubs

Four years ago: Homeless People is City Wildlife

Entertainment

I am good at entertaining children.  Very good. Possibly gifted.

The key to keeping children entertained is to let them entertain themselves.  All you have to do is get them excited about something.  Today it was a measuring tape.  It fell out of my purse and the kids (I was volunteering in my Little Sister's classroom) and the kids pounced on it.  They started measuring their hair, their feet, the tables, and even their teeth.  Their accuracy left something to be desired, but their enthusiasm was incredible.

When waiting around for field trips, I've developed this skill.  One of my favorite techniques is to ask who has ever broken a bone.  Or who has a cool scar.  All of a sudden, you have every child in the vicinity falling all over themselves to tell stories, and you have 20 minutes of entertainment.  Or ask about a pet.  You'll hear "Oh!  Oh!  Teacher, my uncle's cousin's girlfriend had a cat and one time?  Um, my cousin?  She has a dog and it's little…

I Learned that People in Africa Wear Clothes

How big do you think Africa is?  As big as the United States?  As big as China?  Check this out - if you are like most Americans, you have grossly underestimated it your whole life. 

Africa has a slightly larger area as the United States, China, India, Japan, the UK, Spain, Mexico, Peru, France, Papua New Guinea, Sweden, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Italy, Nepal, Greece, and Bangladesh, all put together.  There are over 50 countries in Africa (depends slightly on who you're talking to because of some disputed territory).  Somewhere around 2,000 languages are spoken in Africa.  African is not a language. 

If you were surprised by any of those facts, you're not alone. I worked at a school that was about 50% black (African-American is a tricky term as not all black people are African-American, and, as I'm about to explain, many of the kids I know don't want "African" to be a word having anything to do with them.)  At this school, calling someone a "Black…

Columbus Day

In honor of Columbus day, here's a story from 2006:

The same girl asked me once about Columbus. The conversation went something like this, and I have to say, I was very proud of her for the critical thinking skills she displayed.

Student: Why do we call them Indians when India is a different country?

Me: [some crap I can't remember about how Columbus got lost and thought he was going to India, so he called them Indians because he was assuming he was in India]

Student: [stares at me incredulously] They got named the wrong thing because he got LOST? [thinks for a minute] And where does he get off naming them anyway? Who said the white guy could name them??
Three years ago: A Story from "Lamar"

Four years ago: Email Wisdom

The Blue Paper

I used the last of the blue paper today.  The blue paper was donated in my second year of teaching, in a rather spectacular manner.
By my second year of teaching, I was already exhausted.  I was trying to learn how to teach third grade, dealing with an administrator whose favorite line was "I can have your job, you know!" trying to figure out how to deal with standardized tests, and much, much more.  When I got to part of the curriculum that required the kids to cut and paste and my request for scissors and glue was met by the person in charge of supplies rolling her eyes and saying "We don't have those," in a manner that clearly suggested I was clueless to how schools worked, something in me snapped.  This was the beginning of me begging for help.
I'll write another post at some point about how I may have shamelessly begged every one of my friends and acquaintances to volunteer in the classroom.  I started by begging for supplies.  
After quickly exhausting m…

Apple Picking

I recently went apple picking with some friends and my Little Sister.  It was an extremely eye-opening experience to go to an apple orchard with a little girl from the inner city.

She didn't know that apples grew on trees.  When I told her, she looked at me like I was trying to pull a fast one on her.  When she finally saw that I was serious, she asked me if any other fruit grew on trees.  Each one was a whole new revelation for her.  She told me that she had been sure that apples grew on the ground.

We played a little game when we were driving.  You go through the alphabet: "My name is Annie and I like to eat apples."  She got F.  "My name is Flamantha."  Flamantha?  Yes, Flamantha.  The girl is creative.

One year ago (one of my favorite posts): The Gecko's Vacation

Sick Days

I would like to hear from other teachers on this one.  I've written on this before, about trying to "discipline" and correct teachers using guilt, my story about being very very sick at the end of my last school year, my co-worker's experience taking time off when her mother-in-law died tragically, and when I tried to teach on crutches.  Here's my question: Is this unique to the district I used to work in or is this an inherent problem for people who work with children?

A related question: WHY?  It's extremely unprofessional.  Everyone gets sick.  Everyone has family emergencies.  Unless someone is abusing the system, I really don't understand the guilt that seems to be induced so quickly by administrators.


Four years ago: More Interesting Past Tenses

Three years ago: Thing Number 75 I Don't Miss About Teaching


One year ago: The Parent Factor

Not Safe in Her Own Bed

Some of you who are local may have heard about this.  A six-year old girl - not at the school I used to work at but one nearby - was shot while asleep in her bed. Now, I’ve written about several kids who have been shot and killed (thankfully, this little girl is going to make it although it’s an experience she should never have had to go through) and I see two kinds of responses.  Primarily, people are compassionate and express what I consider to be the appropriate emotions: sadness, incredulity, and anger.  Occasionally, however, there’s someone either commenting on my blog or on the story that I linked to basically saying “Well, they live in the ghetto, what do they expect?”  I hate that reaction.  I understand it, especially if the person writing is afraid - they need to reassure themselves that these kids were different in some way and that this could never happen to their own children.  But I hate it. It comes back to this for me though: we should never stop being ou…

Ten Things I Like About You

You'd think that a list of good things about someone would make them happy.  Not so for the two students that I helped make these lists.  One was this child, who really truly hated himself.  The other was the student at the end of this post who says he's going to kill his father if he ever gets out of jail.  This child, "Fred," was something special.

Fred was so angry that it almost gave him superhuman strength.  He was a small second grader when he was terrorizing fifth graders.  I had him in first and third grades and apparently I did something right because he would seek me out when he was angry.  He would clench his fists, turn bright red, breath hard, and say "You've got to calm me down.  You're the only one who can calm me down."  He would lose control of his body and flail around.  He usually didn't care who got in his way, but there was one instance that scared him.  He was flailing his body like usual and he knocked me into a wall.  I w…

A Teacher by Another Other Name

Many of us can remember accidentally calling a teacher "Mom" at some point during our school years.  In high school, a girl in my US history class called our teacher "Mr. Roosevelt" because she was studying so hard for the AP test.  It's embarrassing from that point of view, but hilarious from the teacher's point of view.  Some of the things I've been called instead of "Teacher" or my name include:

MamaDaddyAuntieGrannyMama, I mean Teacher! Ms. Simmons ("you both have glasses, I can't tell you apart!"  Ms. Simmons is black.  I am white.)the name of every white teacher in the school because "it's like you's twins"Auntie BerthaUncle LarryWhile Uncle Larry is my favorite (it kind of stopped the whole class in their tracks),  Auntie Bertha was also pretty amusing.  I had met Auntie Bertha.  She is a LARGE very dark-skinned black woman who was probably in her 60s.  I was a tall thin (at that point) very pale white wom…

"I Hate Me"

Today, I have a sad story to share.  I've been meaning to share this story for four years but at the same time, I haven't wanted to think about it.  This is the story of a child who is considered by many to be unreachable.  I really don't believe it is too late - I don't believe it's ever too late - but many people do.

"TJ" was a child with many, many problems.  I got to know his mom pretty well.  She was a single mom and I never heard a word about his dad.  I'm not sure if he was just out of the picture or if TJ even knew who his dad was.  (I've had plenty of kids where the blank for "father" on their birth certificate just says "unknown."  Others just have a first name because the last name is unknown.)

TJ's mom often alluded to a former drug problem.  She was in her mid-20s and had two kids at home and was also taking care of a sick mother and a bipolar developmentally delayed brother.  She was understandably overwhelmed…

Almost Famous

Well, not really.  But my blog did get a mention in the Huffington Post today!  My name isn't in it but it links to my blog:

An elementary school teacher who blogs about her work (http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com/) reinforces this: "Parents don't necessarily read the paper, but the television is on all the time. I have had kids who have gone to stay at a relatives' house, not because the water or heat was out, but because the cable TV was down."

(note: I put in the apostrophe correctly even though it ended up being incorrect.  That is important to me.)

The article talks about how kids get their news.  The author points out that Weekly Reader (do we all remember that!) used to be used in most classrooms but now budgets and time constraints cause kids to not really learn about current events in school.  Very true and not a great idea in the long run, I think.  I'd rather have kids learning about what's going on in the world so they can make dec…

Guest Post: Family Legacy

Today's guest post is from Stephanie K., a wonderful former colleague of mine.  She was actually the first teacher I ever talked to at my old school.  When I came for an interview, I observed the class I would be taking over, and taught them a sample lesson.  I had some free time and Stephanie was either on lunch break or a prep period - I remember she was cutting something out of construction paper for the kids.  I asked her about the class and she told me how hard the school was and how it was extremely difficult but also rewarding.  She has some wonderful stories and I hope she writes again soon!

The grandmother of a particular family was the queen bee of a speed producing ring, as I understand it.  T. was supposed to be in first grade the year before she was in my class, but she was shot. According to her, she was not shot on purpose, but whoever shot her was trying to shoot a twelve-year-old, which in that neighborhood is considered a grown person. She was out of school al…

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, México!

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, México!

Today is the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence.  ¡Feliz Bicentenario! Te extraño mucho.

The IM that Made Me Cry

I've been wishing I could help "Chantal" more but I just don't have the money to help her with school (she didn't ask - she would never ask - but I wish I could do it) and I don't have any connections to people willing to hire a 19-year old. 

She texts/IMs me sometimes asking if I know anyone who's hiring, but more often just saying that this is hard.  It's hard for her to be in her family, to have worked hard and graduated against all odds and not be able to find work or pay for classes.  I imagine it's incredibly difficult to know that there are kids who don't care at all about education and are in college to party but are getting it financed by their parents.  So, a lot of our chatting is just kind of a time for her to vent - I am not sure she has anyone else to talk to in this way.

The part that made me cry: (before you judge her writing, remember that ALL teenagers write like this on chat/IM/text)

 yeah but im glad that i still have you it…

Changes

I am volunteering - only one hour a week - at my old school.  My Little Sister goes to school there and I still know a couple of teachers at the school.  Which is actually two schools now.  Part of it feels so familiar that I actually had to stop myself from grabbing the papers out of what used to be my mailbox.   The one of the small schools that I visited, however, was much, much calmer.  I don't know what happened (or if it feels calmer to the teachers) but it has a very different feel.  I don't think the area is any less violent but a few things have changed:

1. The kids all wear uniforms, and it appears to be enforced
2. The administrators seem to be there for longer than a year at a time
3. The schools are smaller

Seems to make a difference... or maybe it's because I'm an outsider now, I'm not sure.

One year ago: Ouch! and Another Example

Two years ago: Guest Blog - Healthy Eating

Four years ago: Gecko Stories

5th Grade Graduations

A friend and former colleague (who will probably have a guest post coming up soon!) sent me a news article about one of her former students whose sister was shot and killed in 2002.  I'll have more about that in her guest post but it made me think of something else: 5th grade graduations.

Fifth grade graduations were BIG at our school.  Flowers, fancy dresses, the whole family coming - I even saw a family or two who rented limos.  And these were families on food stamps.  I couldn't understand it for my first few years and then it dawned on me and made me really sad.  Fifth grade graduation might be the last graduation for a lot of these kids. 

I don't think that was the only reason for celebration - in an area where a lot of the parents didn't have a high school education or came from other countries so their kids could get an education, there was some honest celebrating of the fact that students were graduating from elementary school.  But I think even more than that,…

Thoughts on "Worth It"

A friend and former colleague sent me this email - she wanted to comment on the post on facebook but for obvious reasons didn't want this traced back to her name.  She has great thoughts and is in a tough situation.

I have been having the same thoughts around worth. I have been looking for a full time job in education and in the mean time I am subbing. I am currently subbing at a small charter school in LA. I am in the room because the new teacher they hired is not credentialed and therefore cannot be in the classroom, legally, without a credentialed teacher. The teacher has made several mistakes when explaining topics. He has made grammar and spelling errors but in addition he exhibits a basic lack of knowledge on the various topics he is teaching. In addition the curriculum they are using has students work independently and has them self test out of topics. They are essentially teaching themselves. If ever a population of students needed actually direct instruction, it…

Worth It

I just raised my rates for tutoring.  I find myself reluctant to tell potential clients how much I charge because I don't feel like I'm worth that much.  Also, at least a few times, I've gotten the response of "Well, I could hire a college student for $15 an hour."  Yes, yes you could.  But a college student is not a teacher.  Teachers are actually professionals, who have gone through education and training and theoretically at least, know what they're doing.  Of course, part of the problem is that teaching is so underpaid and under-respected that it's hard to get good people, and bad teachers make the whole profession look bad.  I think another problem is that it's a pink collar (traditionally female) job, which tend to lack in adequate compensation and respect.

However, I must be good at what I do, and there are at least a few people who think it worth paying for.  I actually raised my rate - sort of accidentally.  I was talking to the mom of a pote…

Mrs. Dwyer, Revisited

Instead of just including a link at the bottom of the post to past posts, there is one I think needs to be re-read because it is about an incredibly committed volunteer who changed the whole atmosphere of our school.  Here it is again: Mrs. Dwyer.  (The last paragraph is my favorite.)

I'm a little behind, but I wanted to share about our wonderful volunteer from last year, Kathy Dwyer. Kathy was working in the children's ministries department at my church and came to volunteer at my school. She was volunteering in a kindergarten class the year before (I think) and decided to help out in third grade last year.

Kathy started by reading with the kids and helping them with their practice tests. As she got to know the kids, I think she saw that they had a creative side that wanted to come out. Since we had really limited resources at school, she brought all the supplies for the projects. And these were GREAT projects. Painting wood shapes, making journals using cutout…

The Circus Comes to Town

Every time I come to pick up my Little Sister (who I'm calling "Clarabelle" in honor of what she names every toy she has), it looks like the circus is coming to town.  I pull up outside her house and kids come out of every door.  They all run over to me and start asking me questions, all at once.  Can I buy them candy?  Can I take them to wherever we're going?  Can they come to my house?  Can they play with my dog?  Can I get them a Big Brother or Big Sister?  There usually aren't any adults with them, just children.  I feel like the Pied Piper!

Three years ago: Girls Dressed as Women