Monday, February 28, 2011

The Mural

I still get to see this beautiful mural when I volunteer.  It makes the whole school brighter.

 Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Beautiful Mural

I've always had this dream that somehow our school could be make more beautiful. I've envisioned a mural of some sort, to bring color to the industrial off-white/off-yellow/beige-ish color of the school (why don't districts pain elementary schools in bright primary colors? Of all the buildings to be a neutral color, elementary schools should not be the ones). I've gone to paint stores to ask about extra paint, and discovered that, at least at the place I went to, they mix all the leftovers together, creating a pukey mud color.

Last year, my dream was realized. The principal at the time - we'll call her "Seems Great Then Totally Flakes Out Administrator" was totally on board with the idea, and I just happened to have a friend - Robin the Artist - who was both unemployed and trying to raise money for a missions trip. The principal said we had the money, said she loved the idea, that the school would reimburse for the paint and pay Robin $1500 for the mural. She loved the mural, so much that she offered Robin an additional $500 to make a bulletin board. ($500 is a lot for a bulletin board, but when one is trying to raise money, one does not tend to argue these points!)

So, the school got this beautiful mural that you see here, and Robin got her money - all is right with the world. Right?

Not quite.

Robin knew that it might take a while for the district to pay her, so she would email me occasionally from overseas to see how it was coming. I, in turn, would go to the office and bother them. First, the issue was that she didn't answer some questions about what the purpose of this independent contract was. Then there was some other thing to answer. She passed the answers on to me and I filled them out - it worked out OK, because she had already signed everything before she left.

When Robin got back, 8 months later, she still hadn't been paid. She asked at my school - now with a different principal - and was told to go "downtown" to district headquarters and ask. When she got downtown, she found out that the paperwork was never turned in. Well, either that, or the district had managed to lose it, which happens a LOT.

Now she had to explain this to a different principal, who had not approved the project, and didn't have the money in his budget. The original principal ("Seems Good...") was strategically not answering any of her email, and therefore avoiding this topic. In fact, I don't think she's answered any of of the emails from Robin or me to this date.

It is still pending, over a year since Robin did the mural (I think about 15 or 16 months later), and no one in the district has been very helpful. Finally, somehow, the check is supposed to be in the mail. At least a check for the first $1500. For some reason, the additional $500 is proving even more elusive.

If Robin doesn't get paid soon, I say she goes to the news reporters. This district really can't afford any more bad press. But, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished. 
Three years ago: STAR Testing
Four years ago: A Beautiful Mural
                        A Coat for the Gecko

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Proposition 6

I saw Milk for the first time last week and I found out that I am embarrassed at my lack of knowledge.  I had absolutely no idea that California was close to passing a proposition banning gays and lesbians (and possibly anyone who supported gay rights) from being public school teachers. 

I had no idea. I knew that Harvey Milk did something good for gay rights but I didn't know any specifics.

I just want to say again, in case there are any questions, that I have worked with many gay and lesbian teachers and not a one of them had a "gay agenda" or tried to convince the children of anything inappropriate.  Not one.

And it bothers me that this came up in 1978 and that I heard people saying the same types of things in recent years.  This needs to stop.

Three years ago: No More Sanctions!

Four years ago: Communication
                        Logic Triumphs After All

Friday, February 25, 2011


I'd love to get some feedback on this one.  I always gave homework.  Every day.  Often it was very very short, but I gave it every day - including weekends - because the kids I worked with had few opportunities to build responsibility and I wanted them to know that they were responsible for something every day.  Also, they really really needed the practice.

I was aware that many of them had chaotic home lives though, and that things came up or they had to help at home.  I told them and their guardians that if they called me or wrote a note - or just had their guardian sign the homework - they wouldn't be penalized for not doing it.  (In third grade, penalized means sitting on the bench for five minutes, but that's a big deal).

Now that I'm working most days with an 8th grader, I am a little surprised at the amount of homework he gets but he really needs the practice.

Parents and teachers, what do you think about homework?  For it?  Against it?  In what amounts?

One year ago: How Not to Yell at Students

Four years ago: Longer School Day

Five years ago: What Up, Blood?

Maturity. And a Flower Horn Fish Pet.

I'm hoping that this sub grows up a little before she becomes a teacher.  It's been a year.  She could very well be a teacher at this point.  Check out her helpful comments.

Monday, February 22, 2010

First Day of School

How often is the first day of school February 22?

I am happy to report that I really like my new class.  I mean, I've met them for a total of 103 minutes, so that judgment may be premature, but I don't think so.  They are very diverse - not like my other district where "diverse" meant black kids - but actually diverse.  There are kids who came from Bosnia, Russia, China, Nepal, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Mexico, Central America, and a few other places I'm not sure of.  There are kids who didn't say one word and a couple who came in like it was their job to be a one-man (or woman) show.

I'm impatient for Wednesday because at the moment, their sub of the last two months is still there.  The principal thought it would be a good idea to have a transition time with both of us.  I think she was worried that I'd be overwhelmed but I feel that I am now sufficiently experienced in difficult kids that I'm going to be just fine for two hours a day.  The sub lends an interesting dynamic.  She is 22, just out of college, with no experience at all.  She is very helpful in some ways - she calculated the kids' grades and compiled all their information for me, which she didn't have to do.  In other ways, she's... young and inexperienced.  Examples:
"That kid over there is the most horrible human being I've ever met."

"That one is autistic.  I don't know why he won't do his work - he's not, like, stupid.  He just has a huge attitude, that's his main problem."

In addition, the kids can eat in class, wear their hats and hoods, have their cell phones on, sit with their friends, be late, and leave garbage on the floor.  Please do not have any doubts that this will all change.  Very quickly.

The office staff and administration is (so far) very welcoming and helpful.   We can actually get our own supplies and not have to beg for them or hoard (very strange).  The vice principal expressed surprise that the room didn't have a working computer and told me that she would get one set up immediately.  A much better response than "You know how you get those people to donate things sometimes? Do you think they'd give us computers?"

There was one boy sitting in the back who was drumming on his desk throughout the whole period.  Finally, while the other kids were working, I went over to him and asked if he was a drummer.  He said yes and apologized for his table drumming.  I told him that it was OK, my brother was a drummer and I know it's hard for them to turn it off.  I said that I might ask him to stop sometimes, but I wasn't mad at him.  He agreed very quickly and managed to abstain for the rest of the period.  Power struggle averted.

I forgot about the flower horn fish pet: read on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sixth Graders


I love them.  I really do.

A student, let's call him "Jacob," who I'm tutoring in writing wrote me a story about a cat who fell into toxic waste and lived.  Then we played hangman.  His sentence?

"[my name] will lose to the wrath of the almighty Jacob."

My students answered some questions today in a writing exercise.  Here are some of the highlights:

What do you want me to call you?
  • Call me Ana but it's not my name.
  • I want you to call me Mr. Ramos
  • I don't care.
  • Call me "Daddy."

What languages do you speak?
  • I speak English.
  • I speak Tagalog, Visaya*, and English
  • I speak english at school & a little filipino
  • Bosnian, English, and a little of Spanish
  • I speak English and Spanish and Samoan.
  • I speak English every day and I could speak Spanish.
  • I speack Bosnian at home and English at school.
  • I speak english in school, spanish in spanish class and chinese at home.
  • I speak english at school and Arabic at home.
  • I speak english and Russian and learning hebrew.
  • I speak english at school and half englis and have togan [Tongan] at home.
  • I speak African American.

Where were you born?
  • I was born in Oakland.
  • I was born in the Philippines and stayed there until I was 8.
  • Bosnia
  • I was born is the state of Main all the way across the United States. The hospital's name is Machias.
  • Bosnia
  • I was born in Russia.
  • Berkeley
  • I was born in China.
  • I am born in Alameda.
  • I was born in New Zealand.
  • I was born in a hospital.
  • How would I know?
Describe your family.
  • I have one sister and my mom but my dad is in the Philipines and I never seen him since I was seven.
  • I have 4 people.
  • My family is wonderful an my pets.
  • I live with my mom and visit my dad on school breaks.  My mom and dad dont live with each other.  My dad lives in oragon and my mom lives here in California.  I ahve 2 older sisters and they live in Oakland the safe sid.  On my moms side of the family I have 1 uncle, 4 cousins, 1 Great Aunt, and 1 Aunt.  On my dads side I have 2 uncles, 1 Aunt, and thats it.  I have a black lab named Dozer and 2 Cats named Sneaker, and Boots.
  • My family is nice and my pet is a small dog and her name is Chamila.
  • Dad-Mom-sis-sis-sis-brother-brother-female dog.
  • My family is cool and nice.
  • I have a fun brother two awesome parents and two awesome grandparents.  five boring fish.  My parents never yell.
  • My sister is bossy, My brothers are electronic people, My parents are working hard, my grandmother cooks a lot.
  • I have 6 family members My mom wears a head scarf just like me My dad drives a truck with this company and My brother is 10 My other brother is 8 My little sister is 5
  • The family that I live with is not my Real parents but now since they adopted me they are and when I came to California from Russia I got a dog and there was 2 cats but 1 died but we got another cat.
  • I have a mother and a father.
  • Unique, nice, caring, kind, loving, a piece of my heart.
  • I have four family members including me, my mom, dad, and my brother, and I also has a flower horn fish pet.**
What is the best thing that has ever happened to you at school?
  • The best thing that happened to me is I got 1st place on my art project I did.
  • Nothing
  • I got out of school.
  • Getting all 4.0 grades for the whole year.
  • The best thing that happen to me at school is I got an 4.0.
  • I fonud a five Dollers
  • The best thing that has happen to me is have my first best friend at school
  • The best thing that ever happen to me was my fifth grade graduaion.  I had food and all kinds of stuff.
  • That we won our basketbal game.
  • I got an award for math.
  • when I got A's and B's
  • when I used to go to school in Oragon I got an award for not getting in trouble on the yard for a mounth.  That was the best thing that ever happened at school.
  • Nothin.
  • I got alot of rewards.
  • I figured out that a lot of guys like me.... haha shh! don't tell anyone ^o^

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you at school?
  • The worst thing is when I first came to the U.S. I went straight and I didn't know anything the people are saying.
  • when I got suspended.
  • I went to school.
  • getting out of math class.
  • I dunno.
  • the worstest thing that happen to me at school is I fell because I run too fast and my backpack is heavy.  The ground was wet and I fell.
  • win I got hit with the Ball
  • The worst thing that happend at school was lose my friend because he moved.
  • the worst thing that ever happened at school was when I threw up in the hall way.
  • I don't know maybe when I got in trouble the last time I remembered.
  • The worst thing ever happed to me in school was I got saspended.
  • My enemies.
  • I never got it.
  • when I used to have F's
  • when I was in 4th grade at school I Farted really loud and every body heard it.
  • Nothin.
  • I got in trouble badley
  • Someone tripped me and the worst was someone spit on me.
  • The worst thing that happened is that I threw up in class.

Don't worry... that is not it, it's just bedtime.  To be continued...

*Pretty impressive that she speaks a language I've never heard of.

**Can anyone clue me in on a flower horn fish pet?

One year ago: Sixth Graders

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Unconventional Motivation

I saw this story about a parent who basically humiliated her child into doing better in school.  I think before I started teaching, I would have been firmly against this sort of tactic.  However, that was before I realized that doing well in school or not could literally be a matter of life or death in the future - or at least a matter of a life of freedom or behind bars.  If I hadn't done well in school, I probably would have gone to a community college instead of a four-year college.  The culture of my family and friends was such that I would have made those choices.  Many of the kids I have taught have never been around that culture, and dropping out of high school or not doing well would mean they didn't have other options - at least, not other legal options.  That's obviously a generalization, but I really can't blame this mother for feeling desperate.

The blogger says: "I'm guessing standing on the corner for four hours with a sign soliciting your embarrassment at 15-years-old, is much better than the embarrassment of picking up trash in public while wearing prison gear when you're older."

Many of the commenters wonder if the reaction would have been the same if the family were white.  It's also interesting to think about considering the "Tiger Mom" who's been in the news lately with what she calls Chinese Mothering.  

I heard one mother express this kind of frustration to a child once. The kid's grandmother (father's mother) was the matriarch of a large crack house and the kid was fooling around in school and in danger of not passing.  His mother said to him, very seriously, "If I see you going down that path, I will kill you myself rather than see you go into that kind of hell." 

The kid shaped up.

One year ago: First day of school

Three years ago: Teacher Salaries
                          The Subbing Conspiracy

Four years ago: Observations and Being Nice
                        Things I Won't Miss About School

Five years ago: A Kids' Eye View of the Neighborhood
                        I've Made It!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just When I Miss the Classroom...

... I remember things like this.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My evaluator is afraid of the gecko.

I realize that this shouldn't bring me pleasure, but it does. (Especially because his teeth are probably the size of an ant's brain. They're teensy.) Jesus wouldn't feel happy and superior because His evaluator was afraid of the gecko. But I do.

It's not entirely fair to take out all my frustration on my evaluator. Some of it is actually just way too many years (sad when 8 years is way too many) in the district, which is entrenched in negativity, dysfunction, failure, and hopelessness. Does that sound dramatic? Probably. But I think it's true. (Lindsay, you were there, what do you think?)

But she is doing her part to earn my defensiveness and ire. Apart from the things I have already talked about, with my not-so-good evaluation and such... last week she was trying to schedule
an observation with me. Note that word, schedule. Because it is a SCHEDULED formal observation. I'm supposed to turn in a lesson plan for the lesson that she is going to observe, we discuss it, she comes to observe me, and then she tells me again that I have no student work up and the kids are not calm enough or something like that.

We exchanged three or four emails about the date of my observation, with me asking for the time as well. This is because she wants a lesson plan, and, like all teachers, I teach different things at different times of the day. In fact, I am required to teach different subjects at different times of the day.

She says we'll discuss the time when I give her the lesson plan.

I point out that I can't give her the lesson plan until I know what lesson she wants to see.

She says this is what we discuss when I give her the lesson plan... you see the pattern here.

In addition to the complete and utter lack of logic, we have a minor problem scheduling the time for me to hand her the lesson plan (I've decided to take the strategy of making a really lousy lesson plan so that I'm not wasting my time - it took me about 2 minutes). She tells me that all my suggestions for meeting times don't work for her, and can I meet her at 3:00 on Friday in her office. OK, fine. Guess who's NOT in her office at 3:00 on Friday! It's shut and locked.

I went down to the main office to look for her and a few other teachers were standing around and told me that she had left 10 minutes before. I emailed her right away and haven't yet heard from her. No idea if I'm getting observed tomorrow, or on what, but it would be JUST like my district for me to get observed and be "marked down" for not turning in a lesson plan.

In the meantime, to try and preserve a tiny bit of sanity, I am trying to remember that I love the kids and that I have sick days to use up this year so I don't die, and I'm hoping and praying that people keep reading this and find out what kind of craziness is going on in the public schools. At least in this particular district.

One year ago: Contract

Three years ago: A Dubious Slogan

Four  years ago: Construction
                         The Gecko is Growing Up

Five years ago: Praise the Lord, a Kid Got Helped!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Missing Solomon

I'm not the only one who misses Solomon.

These kids, who I miss very much, saw a friend murdered a couple of years ago.  I've worried about them a lot, especially the older one, who protects the younger one to some extent.  He has had a lot of problems before and since the murder, and often seems very hardened.  I have been worried about him for a long time and haven't heard from him lately.

These two boys were very close to Solomon, my late puppy.  I told them that he passed away and didn't hear back.  I waited a few months, sent them Christmas cards, and didn't hear back.  I texted them a photo of the new puppy this week and finally heard back.

The younger one said "Is that a pitt she is cute."

The older one asked what I did with Solomon when he died.  the text "conversation" went like this:

Him: What did you do to puppy when he died:

Me: I had him cremated.  You know what that is?

Him: Yea when they burn you and put you in a box

Me: Yeah.  So I can keep the box, bury it, or scatter his ashes.  I haven't decided yet because I still miss him too much.

Him: I think you should keep it.  I miss puppy to.

Him: I bet you feel wierd not seeing puppy there huh

Me: I do feel weird.  I miss him.

Him: Me too. Puppy was a happy nice dog.

Me: He really was.

Him: Do you think puppy is in heaven with God?

Me: God created him and I think that Puppy showed God's love to everyone.

Him: Maybe that's why puppy was so happy all the time.  Can you please send me a picture of puppy?  I miss him.

A kid who was too hardened wouldn't care about Solomon and if Solomon was in heaven.  It would be hard to blame a teenager who had seen a friend murdered - along with many other tragedies in his life - for not being touched by a dog who was "happy and nice" - but he was.

I think that makes it harder to be Jorge, but I also think that means that there's hope for him.

One year ago: A New Job!

Four years ago: Chinese New Year!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Seriously Dedicated Teachers

I'd like to think of myself as a dedicated teacher.  However, there's no way I would do this, just out of sheer exhaustion.

The AP English class got cut at one of the small high schools in the more difficult part of Oakland and the teachers are teaching it anyway.  For free.  Before school and during their prep time.  And the students are taking it.  Pretty amazing.

Three years ago: From Mexico, Part 2

Four years ago: No Child Left Behind, Football Version
                        A Year Off

Monday, February 14, 2011

Professional Development Reminder

Just when I start really missing teaching, I remember that, although I miss the relationships I had with the students, I really really don't miss the bureaucracy.  Here's a look into a professional development session, four years ago.  You can see that the intent is good but that none of our specific needs were taken into account, making the whole thing almost useless.  This is time that could be spent really helping teachers who need ideas and strategies, and it's hard not to feel bitter when it's wasted.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Professional Development

We read a story about Picasso which told about his Blue Period. We tried a Blue Period too - I don't know which shades of blue Picasso had, but we used black, white, royal blue, sky blue, turquoise, and glitter blue. Picasso could have used glitter blue.
Professional development is often an exercise in boredom and/or sitting still. I never like it. Today we had a training on Every Day Counts. The first problem was that the presenter asked us was if we would put everything else away. We never put everything else away. Everyone is always working on at least two other things. Stapling packets of work, correcting homework, writing lesson plans, knitting (I'm not the only one!), cutting things... there's sort of an underlying understanding that we all have way more work than we need and not enough time so if we can multi-task, then we will.
So, she says to put everything else away, "if you don't mind." But I did mind! As did everyone else, judging by the looks on their faces. But it turns out that "if you don't mind," means "I don't care if you mind or not." So we put everything away. But the "helper presenter" kept her cell phone on, and its cute little dance ring went off. So, who was the distracting one?
She explained the program, which is great in theory. It teaches math using a calendar, with patterns, multiples, fractions, etc. Sadly, it needs almost an entire wall to be set up, which is room no one really has. It also involves a lot of use of Post-It Notes, which the school isn't about to buy for us, and are just one more set of things the teacher would have to buy.
The other thing the cheery happy blond lady presenting doesn't seem to understand, is that since the program involves lots and lots of little bits of pieces and things (look here) for examples - little coins and pieces of plastic and paper clips and laminated things and number tiles, etc, all sort of precariously balanced on an easel... all it takes is one child to throw a medium-sized temper tantrum and all your carefully counted little bits of things that have been carefully adding up since day one of school are going to go flying.
I don't think she's worked with kids who throw temper tantrums. 
                        Sometimes, Kids are Just Plain Weird

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What it Takes to Bcome a Teacher

I wrote this four years ago, but if anything has changed, it's been to add more hoops.

Hoops to Jump Through

It's gotten worse since I was getting my credential. Now, in addition to doing your coursework, you have to:
  • take the CBEST test ($41, not hard)
  • take the CSET test ($222, really hard, many people retake it and pay again)
  • take the RICA test ($140, don't remember how hard)
  • take a CPR class ($)
  • BTSA (two year long mentorship program)
  • CLAD certification (extra classes and $$)
  • Student teaching (unpaid and virtually or completely full-time)
  • Tasks 1-4 (see below)
  • Clear credential (extra classes and $$)
  • Fingerprints ($)
  • Certain number of hours of classes or professional development (I forget how many) each 5 years to renew your credential. ($)
Oh, by the way, the prospective teacher has to pay for all of this. According to this website, the median salary for an elementary school teacher is $38,175, so we don't exactly make it back in a hurry.
These are the tasks. This is what would be the final straw for me, had I not gotten my credential already. I think the idea might be that the more hoops you have to jump through, the more dedicated you are. More realistically, the more hoops you have to jump through, the more tired you are and more likely to burn out and give up. Seriously, look at the list above and the tasks below and keep in mind that all of this is BEFORE you get to teach, not make much money, get very little respect, and work very very hard. then tell me, is it a surprise that we keep losing dedicated teachers?


Task 1: Principles of Content-Specific and Developmentally Appropriate Pedagogy
Within this task, the candidate will respond to four distinct scenarios that cover developmentally appropriate pedagogy, assessment practices, adaptation of content-specific pedagogy for English learners, and adaptation of content-specific pedagogy for students with special needs, respectively. Each scenario is based on specific components in the candidate's subject matter content area. For example, Multiple Subject candidates will address English/Language Arts in the first scenario, Mathematics in the second, Science in the third, and History/Social Science in the fourth. This written task is not dependent upon working with actual K-12 students. The following TPEs are measured in this task:
Making subject matter comprehensible to students (TPE 1)
Assessing student learning (TPE 3)
Engaging and supporting students in learning (TPE 4, 6, 7)Task 2: Connecting Instructional Planning to Student Characteristics for Academic Learning

Task 2 connects learning about student characteristics to instructional planning. This written task contains a five-step set of prompts that focuses the candidate on the connections between students' characteristics and learning needs and instructional planning and adaptations. The following TPEs are measured in this task:
Making subject matter comprehensible to students (TPE 1)
Engaging and supporting students in learning (TPE 4, 6, 7)
Planning instruction and designing learning experiences for students (TPE 8, 9)
Developing as a professional educator (TPE 13)Task 3: Classroom Assessment of Academic Learning Goals

Task 3 gives candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to design standards-based, developmentally appropriate student assessment activities in the context of a small group of students using a specific lesson of their choice. In addition, candidates demonstrate their ability to assess student learning and to diagnose student needs. The following TPEs are measured in this task.
Assessing student learning (TPE 3)
Engaging and supporting students in learning (TPE 6, 7)
Planning instruction and designing learning experiences for students (TPE 8, 9)
Developing as a professional educator (TPE 13)Task 4: Academic Lesson Design, Implementation, and Reflection after Instruction

Task 4: Academic Lesson Design, Implementation, and Reflection after Instruction
This task asks the candidates to design a standards-based lesson for a class of students, implement that lesson making appropriate use of class time and instructional resources, meet the differing needs of individuals within the class, manage instruction and student interaction, assess student learning, and analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson. To ensure equity to the candidate, a videotape of the lesson is collected and reviewed. The following TPEs are measured in this task.
Making subject matter comprehensible to students (TPE 1)
Assessing student learning (TPE 2, 3)
Engaging and supporting students in learning (TPE 4, 5, 6, 7)
Planning instruction and designing learning experiences for students (TPE 8, 9)
Creating and maintaining effective environments for student learning (TPE 10, 11)
Developing as a professional educator (TPE 13)

One year ago: One Major Problem With Standardized Testing

Three years ago: From Mexico

Four years ago: Hoops to Jump Through

Five years ago: Dumpster Diving

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pilar de Esperanza

Pilar de Esperanza (Pillar of Hope) is the Mexican orphanage I visit every year or so.  I was there for Christmas and haven't had time to put up photos yet.  I don't think I need to actually say a whole lot about it because the photos pretty clearly show what an amazing place it is. 

These are still hard economic times for many people, and the orphanage is run completely by donations.  The wonderful thing about it, though, is that every donation goes to the kids.  All of it.  There are no administrative fees.  They're also working on getting tax-deductible receipts automatically sent to donors but for now I have receipts if anyone wants to donate. 

Check out these kids and let me know if you'd like to help in any way!

One year ago: Ornery

Four years ago: My Neighborhood

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Tricky Balance

I have been known to be strict, especially with kids who really need it.  Kids who curse out their parents, for example, get to start calling all adults "sir" or "ma'am."  Students who argue with me when I ask them to do something get to choose from one of two answers: "Yes, Ms. ---" or "Yes, ma'am."  Those are their only options.  I got the kids to buy into this so well that when a new kid started up, the kids would say, "No, you have to say 'Yes, ma'am.'" 

There are children who need to be talked to brusquely.  There are kids who don't understand when you say something like, "Hey, sweetie, what I really need for you to do right now is..." They've already bashed someone's head in by the time you get to what you need them to do.  There are some kids who have a lot more respect for adults who will look them in the eye and say, "In your seat.  NOW." 

There are, of course, other kids who will be traumatized by this. Some kids will cry if you look at them funny, and you need to bend over backward to be gentle. 

I have come to the conclusion that being a good teacher (or parent, or social worker, or whatever) requires two things regarding this issue:

1. Understanding which kids fall into which category
2. Being able to be strict AND love them.

Some kids will take advantage of happy, lovey I-statements.  I'm sure there will be people angry with me for saying this, but anyone who's been a teacher of kids who talk back know that sometimes they just need to be shut down and not reasoned with.  You can't (and shouldn't) engage a kid who is talking rudely to an adult.  I don't actually think that is a good time to respond in depth with a lesson on empathy, like "When you are rude, I feel..." That is valuable, and should be done, but usually what the child needs is more along the lines of "No.  You will not talk to me that way. Go sit on the bench and we will talk in five minutes."

Walking in line is another hot-button issue for some people.  My students had to learn to walk in a straight, quiet single-file line.  Why? Not because I was training them for the military or to live in a fascist dictatorship.  Because there needed to be a tone set in which they did something that was visibly controlled, calm, and all together.  The line coming inside can set the tone for the entire day and they needed to understand the delineation between play time (which they need!) and learning time.  Because of this, we would redo coming inside in a line as many times as we needed to.

Any teacher (or other professional who works with children) worth his or her salt will very quickly be able to tell which category a child falls into, and it may actually change from day to day.  Even subbing, I have had kids who I responded to with "I know it's hard to have a new teacher, but your teacher will be back tomorrow and she'll love hearing about how well you did."  I have had other kids who I responded to, first thing, with, "Keep that up, and I will call your mother and she will be sitting in this classroom babysitting you."

As far as loving them, well, you really have to in order to be a good strict teacher.  You don't necessarily have to like them, but you do have to love them.  They know if you don't, and not only is it better if you do love them, I think it's much more effective.  My students could tell me, in the middle of a lecture in which I was furious and they had just been throwing a temper tantrum, that the reason they were in trouble was because I cared. 

I recently watched a teacher who is strict without being to pull off either of these two points.  She thinks it's great how she's hard on them and really making them learn, but they're not respectful of her, they're just scared and think she's mean.  I think the fundamental problem here is that she doesn't love them.  She's not being strict because she really believes in them, so it's empty.  It actually looks a lot more like bullying than good teaching, which I think is what she's going for.  I'm all for ruling with an iron fist (trust me when I say that the kids I teach did NOT have structure and really needed it) but the kids have to also know that you'd do anything for them and aren't just getting high on power.

Four years ago: Comments on Being Overly "Standardized"

Five years ago: Extreme Emotional Neediness

Friday, February 04, 2011

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Five years of Being Light Skinded!

This is why I am light skinded.

Thanks for reading!

Four years ago: Petition

Five years ago:  I'm Not White, I'm Just Light Skinded

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Is This Fair?

I'd very much like to hear people's thoughts about this story

I'll tell you that people do this all the time.  I don't know that she's being targeted because of her race but I'm not sure why she's being targeted.


One year ago: More School Burglaries

Three years ago: No Going Back

Four years ago: Schools are Punished Because Kids are Sick