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What I did on my summer vacation!

How to avoid honey do's!

siliconjim

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August 11th, 2006

It means, until I see you again (sehen) and until I hear from you again (horen), unless my thirty years ago German class recollection fails me!

Thank you, IISME, Alicia, Julia and Shari! Thank you, Diane! and thank you fellow bloggers, wherever you may be!

I have one week in Vegas, and one week of ramp up meetings before the kids arrive the week after that. I'm going to cram a summer into the week in Vegas. After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!
siliconjim

Saving the best for last!

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First of all, I loved seeing so many of you, especially runpeat, and hanging around the Host Bar for Gordon Biersch Marzen! I really enjoyed my picture on the map. I certainly hope everyone saw the map! Thank you, Diane and company!

Traveling to EOS gave me the best opportunity to talk with my mentor because it involved an hour car ride from Oakland. Since my mentor was a finance director in a very large school district, I had asked her to help me understand why districts incessantly try to give teachers the smallest possible raise and, make sure that they don't just pass on to teachers any amount provided by the state for that purpose. In fact, they seem to want to see just how much of the raise fund they can keep.

Her answer was that it's politics. The way to bigger and better things for District Office personnel is to demonstrate their exertion of control over the teachers by giving them as little as possible and getting as much as possible from them. You don't go from the HR guy to a better job without screwing the teachers every chance you get! For clarification, that analysis comes to you from yours truly, not my mentor!


The money is provided each and every year in the budget because of the influence exerted by the CTA and their friendly state legislative representatives. The school district looks at it as a pot of money to be hidden from view and used for any purpose other than teacher raises. If you have contact with anyone on the bargaining team of your union, make certain they hear this loud and clear!

Next, citizens, let's do some math, because it's all about the educational benefits, isn't it? If inflation in the San Francisco Metropolitan Statistical Area for the current year is four percent and the 'raise' you get is two percent, how much of a 'raise' did you get? The riddle should be when is a raise not a raise!
siliconjim

August 3rd, 2006

I received an e-mail today from your friendly neighborhood Teacher Credentialing Commission. You see, in November last year, I applied to clear my Preliminary Credential through my university in lieu of continuing the BTSA evidence gathering fiasco! Today, I received notice that I had earned my Single Subject Clear! Yeah!

In the fine print however, there was a little perplexing news. "Paper credentials! We don't do no stinking paper credentials!" The CTCC it seems, has streamlined their efforts for the 21st Century and is saving the planet by not sending out a paper credential! In fact, it won't be ready to view electronically for another 48 hours! Talk about your antiquated processors! I use WAY to many exclamation points!

Have you seen the Sandra Bullock movie about our Orwellian future in which her friend was killed and his existence erased from memory by computer? She was also targeted due to her dangerous ideas and knowledge by replacing her vital records with those of a criminal. In the movie, she prevails in restoring her identity and nabbing the bad guys. But that's just the movies, not real life!

I'm not worried a bit that the only record of my receiving a professional clear credential is a few well disciplined electrons floating about in cyberspace. I mean, if they actually gave me the paper, I'd just loose it! What if we gave our graduating students an electronic diploma? Now that's a Board Meeting I gotta go to!
siliconjim 


 

August 2nd, 2006

I was waiting at the BART station reading "Catch 22" and couldn't help but notice the loud car noise along Hwy 4. On the train, several people are holding cell phone conversations along with the train noise, which can be very loud and at a very high pitch. Students will sit with earphones on and I can hear what they are listening to on the other side of the room! Can you say Noise Pollution?
We have a train station right next to our school. You just have to love the blare of the whistle and the roar of the engines when the kids are taking the CAHSEE tests or the statewide tests. We also enjoy the routine and frequent blare of the police car sirens and ambulance sirens in our lovely little corner of Pittsburg. It NEVER fails that the landscaping guys have to mow the weeds (we don't really have grass there) and use the leaf blowers during the tests because they couldn't do it any of the twenty days before or after that! 
I would like to drag every politician, School Board member and voter out to school for a taste of our academically enriching environment. When they start asking questions about test scores, I'll just play them a tape of a typical day at school and respond, "What? I couldn't hear you! Could you speak up, please?"
siliconjim

Oh, boy! Back to school!

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I have been mulling over a situation that may come up as I start my back to school routine. My principal has expressed disappointment with me because I refused to attend a week long workshop at Stanford on a new software program that we want to use to help students improve their math scores. Sounds pretty bad, huh!


As if it mattered, here is my side of the story. I had obtained his permission, as you all did, to participate in IISME for eight weeks of my nine week summer vacation. On the second to the last day of school, I did get a fellowship with AC Transit. I so notified my principal about my summer plans, telling him that I would be attending the two day workshop that was supposedly on differentiated instruction, during the first week of IISME. It was a topic of discussion with my mentor during our conversations and she had no problem with it. So far, so good!
On the first day of summer vacation, Friday, June 16th, I was at school for a meeting that we had to have, but had put off until that day for everyones convenience. My principal notified me of the one week workshop at Stanford and wanted me to go. I told him I couldn't because of my commitment to IISME! He wasn't happy. 
I started my IISME fellowship and it was time for the two day workshop that my mentor already knew about. When I went, it was this lame discussion of getting kids to read textbooks with academic language with a good level of comprehension. Well, I'm here to tell you, I don't use textbooks in my class for students to read and get content, not in math. It does nothing but confuse them and they resist trying to learn even more, if that is possible! I called my principal on the first day and advised him of the nature of the workshop and my desire to discontinue my involvement in it, joking that I would go to Stanford if I could be excused from this workshop because it was so bad! He asked me to call the District Office about dropping the workshop and I did, but I got an answering machine. I left a message that I would be discontinuing my attendance at that workshop.
I had phone contact the next day or two with my principal about the Stanford workshop. He advised me that I would have to commute. I told him there was no way I could commute from Pittsburg to Stanford for five days and actually participate in the workshop because I would be dead tired and loosing sleep over the week. It's 66 miles into the teeth of the commute traffic to Stanford from Pittsburg. I would later learn that I would not be paid for the workshop! He was very unhappy!
I thought about it for a couple of days and tried to get back in touch with the principal about just doing it and getting it over with. I was only able to leave messages as he was "on vacation!" When I finally had spoken to him about it, I was aware of not being compensated for the workshop or mileage. I verified that and he complained of my unwillingness to help the kids!
I am REALLY looking forward to going back to school!
siliconjim

August 1st, 2006

Still no feedback!

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I have submitted what has to be considered a draft even though there has been a lot of input and review up to this point for my mentor to review. She has been unable to give it the time it needs for review and input. I'm feeling like Dunbar at the skeet shooting range (see prior post). 
The connection I am seeing to my practice at school is the timeliness of returning graded work to my students. It is among the reasons I am quite excited about using blogging as a platform for student work. If I can pull this off, it will give me several important advantages in my management of student work and grades.
If I have a substantial portion of student work on the computer, I will have it readily accessible to me for review and for grading. Lost work, with the use of back up disks, will be a thing of the past! I will be able to access their work from any computer, thus I will not be lugging boxes of paper home creating more opportunities for lost work. I will be able to give feedback to the student in written form without marking up the student's work avoiding the inevitable depression that causes some of them. I will also be able to identify plagiarism via cut and paste efforts with great ease identifying students needing an oral quiz.


Thinking about all this wonderful stuff and how to do it, where do I start? I should compose some beginning lessons and student computer activities. I definitely need to create a weblog on livejournal or some other site to work out any kinks in that process. I also need to be able to walk students through the process of logging on, creating their account, and navigating the site.


Are there any other aspects of such a learning activity I need to be thinking about and preparing for? HELP!


siliconjim

July 31st, 2006

Ah, the age old question when it comes to some of the less glamorous elements of education, like learning arithmetic with the numbers one through twelve.




Should we have students perform repetitious exercises until their hands hurt from writing, or will we be satisfied when they can show us they know it by doing a couple of correct examples of each?




What about more complex math? Can we let students pass with just a few exercises for understanding or do we need to make it a marathon, or maybe, half a marathon?




The answer is, "It depends upon the student!" Some students already know how to do the math, some students are learning how to do the math, some need to learn how to do the math and others aren't going to learn to do the math!




Okay, so you give students different assignments, different tests and different grades? What do you do when the complaints come in like a tsunami?




Do we HAVE to get PERMISSION to run such a curriculum for the benefit of the students from the administration before we do it? Or do we take the position that we'll ask forgiveness later?




Here we go with public education at its finest! The appearance of favoritism and the suggestion of biased grading and testing will, in all likelihood, be viewed with great consternation in the Principals Office and the District Office! I can just see the Board Meeting on the topic!




I absolutely refuse to engage in the same practices as my elementary counterparts due to someones misguided interpretation of what's fair! After all, is it about education for the student designed to meet their needs, or is it one size fits all with no possibility of differentiated educational experiences?




If it is, then I can only say to those advocating against what they would likely see as preferential treatment for others as a bad thing, "Don't worry, when you start earning minimum wage, it'll be completely fair!"




siliconjim

July 28th, 2006

I (finally) met with my mentor yesterday and my project has taken on a new twist. In lieu of merely providing written instructions for the process and procedure for using a variety of forms that employees outside of the Finance, Accounting and Budgeting groups use routinely; I am now trying to create the mechanism, using a form, to improve the oversight of accounting practices for my mentor. 
I have asked my mentor, who has experience in School Districts in finance, to help me understand the process by which decisions are driven toward the least costly option with rare exception. 
For example, teachers in secondary schools have five class periods and one prep period in a traditional day. I worked in a district in which one high school had the traditional six period day, and one (mine) had block scheduling with four periods per day and eight periods scheduled with A and B days alternating. Teachers were scheduled to teach six periods, three periods each day with one period prep. From time to time, the need would arise for an additional class and a teacher would be asked to take the class during a prep. At traditional schedule schools, the teacher was paid 120% for the extra class and loss of their prep. When I took the extra class, I was paid 117% because, in the mind of the District, I wasn't a six fifths teacher, I was a seven sixths teacher. This is the kind of thinking I seek to have explained, beyond the buy cheap and go long theory of fiduciary governance. You see, my retort to the injustice is to refuse to take on an extra class on this basis and let the District go hire a teacher to fill the spot, subsequently costing them more money and allowing me my regular schedule. They depend upon the enticement to be sufficient for them to get away with it, an extremely common practice of business and management in general. I figure I'm being nice and not insisting that I'm a seven fifths teacher and eligible for 140% of base pay! We were being asked to provide the same instruction for our students as the traditional schedule school with about 81% of the classroom time. 
In our recent meeting, she said she would try to give me some input, and that's all I'm looking for in this situation. I am not asking to be let into the dirty little secrets of District Office operations!
Upon receiving that enlightenment, I will faithfully pass it on in these journal entries!
siliconjim

July 26th, 2006

(no subject)

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"What's all this I hear about high steaks testing? I mean, the damn cows spend their whole day eating grass! Wha'd ya think was gonna happen? Of course they're gonna get high! It probably makes the meat taste better! It always did for me!"
"No, Roseanne Roseanna-Danna, it's not high steaks testing, it's high STAKES testing!" (I know I have Gilda Radner's character incorrectly named - help me on this one!)
"Never mind!"
We have been talking about testing and student stress and cheating quite a bit lately here. Ever since ucdteach80 asked about stress reduction for students in his AP math classes, I've been thinking about the causal factors for this. 
While I realize that there is nothing new about any of these phenomena, I can't help but wonder about the relationship and their effect upon students. The government has implemented testing programs in order to address concerns over school performance and teacher effectiveness. What lovely logic! It goes something like this: we can measure how well teachers are performing by giving their students a single form of test throughout the state. We can then compare the results and decide which schools are doing well and which ones are doing poorly! Then we can show just how proactive we can be at taking punitive action against those worthless teachers at the worst performing schools.
In this scenario, what is the response of the District, the school and the teachers? Teach to the test! How to get the best score possible without resorting to plagiarizing, cheating or learning anything (like how to think in the first place)! Will the teachers, schools and Districts apply pressure to the students to perform at their best possible level on the tests? Will the Districts, schools and teachers loose funding resources if they don't? Why are those kids so crazy and confused anyway?
I'm wondering why it is so difficult to get students to show up and give a good effort on these tests. Don't they know how very important they are to us? 
Of course, there is a much better and far less costly method to assess school performance without all of this window dressing. All you need to do is check the socioeconomic makeup of the community in which the school operates and from which the students come. I guarantee you that, with extremely little significant variation, you can get the same results as all this testing generates. The problem is it doesn't sell real well to the constituency and the press would have a field day with it.
What can we do to help students, who are busy enjoying their childhood and not grooming themselves for success in the corporate world of one upsmanship, become happy, well adjusted, contributing members of a society that they are actually interested in joining?
siliconjim

July 24th, 2006

What a weekend!

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It started Friday after work with helping my brother pack up his personal property and begin his journey across country to Florida. He has a large van, but it isn't that large! He stuffed everything he could into the van but still had a couple of pickup truck loads of things left over. I had to empty the house of those on Saturday morning. 

I had tickets to the Giants game Saturday evening (6pm start time) but did not go. During my two trips between Pittsburg and Oakland, I couldn't help but notice the throngs heading toward San Francisco. The freeways were packed leading up to the Bay Bridge. With my energy level, the traffic and the temperature in the City (95 degrees), I decided to watch the game on the tube! I would have been sitting in the shade and there is an air conditioned area available to fans in the AAA Club Level, but I was not going to sit in traffic, squeeze into a parking space and deal with the 40,000 plus faithful fans on this night! Thankfully, I had better options for watching the game.

So, what choices do my students face every school day as they decide to go or not to go. Are they attracted by the deluxe executive appointments of the school and the classroom? Are they curious to find out something new and add to their ever expanding understanding of numbers and math, and their ability to convert word problems into solutions with math? Could they be enticed by the day's cuisine served up without seating in our food distribution room (we don't have a cafeteria)? "Dude, you are NOT going to miss fish taco day, are you?" they must say to each other. How will they be rewarded for going to school today?

I have long resisted the model of lesson planning that states we must, as teachers, compete with video games and other forms of entertainment in our preparations for our students. "I am not going to even try to compete with Pixar Studios, Play Station or Tupac!" was my motto! "I teach math, and a teenager is never going to attend to a lesson on the derivation of the Quadratic Formula with even close to the focus they will listen to a Rap song or play basketball with their friends!" is my excuse. Of course they won't! 
They happily involve themselves in listening to Rap or playing basketball because they are involved and engaged in those activities. Their standing with their peers is on the line, they believe they enjoy those activities and they get a much better immediate reward when they do either activity. Listening to a math lecture in order to learn and be able to do the math, on the other hand, is not only boring, but they are under peer pressure to be bored and not to understand it or be able to do it! In order to be a good math teacher, I have to be a lot less of a mathematician and a lot more of a stand up comic/ magician/ impromptu actor! That's a good thing because I'm a pretty good mathematician - until we get to Trigonometry, and not much of the other things. I can tone it down on the math side pretty easily, but I won't be able to ramp it up on the other side so easily!
I think I have found an assignment I need to do!
siliconjim

July 16th, 2006

Maybe not!

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Any helpful hints as to how, exactly, one might add a photo to ones posts? Hmmm...

July 14th, 2006

(no subject)

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I tried, and I couldn't do it!

I tried to change the drab, undecorated appearance of my journal and lost my brilliant posting!

But, I persevere! This will now be the look that says "siliconjim"! 

My whole point here is that, and I suspect this is obvious by now, I am not a decorate it kind of guy. I just don't even bother going there! But I feel compelled to try and compelled to learn how to do it. I will ask the same of my students.

Next school year, I hereby promise that I will try things and enjoy the effort! I will be unflappable in my pursuit of a new and more engaging ways of teaching my students. I will not allow complete utter embarrassment to keep me from giving it that old school boy effort!

More on this after a word from our local sponsor...
siliconjim

July 13th, 2006

and it ain't doin' me no good! (Was this a Starship song? and, an unusual departure from their offerings?)

I've been considering the routine here with a particular awareness of the stress level. While I can attribute it to the seasoned and patient tutelage of my mentor, I feel almost no stress here. I think my eyes are going bad and I am developing carpal tunnel, but otherwise, it's all good!

So, my question is why? For what reason? What's the difference for the stress level? The very first answer I arrive at is the KIDS! There are no teenagers here! None! But I mistake the object for the problem! (Typical American mistake.) It is what the kids represent that is not present here and that is a sense that I am responsible for the performance and behavior of the kids. Here, I am responsible for my behavior and performance, and that's enough for me to handle! At school, I feel responsible for my students. If they act up or flunk tests, or worse, don't even try, I feel responsible. I MUST BE STUPID! This is the kind of stuff Covey talks about in his Paradigm Shift and the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. You don't get angry because the kid acted in an inappropriate manner while other adults were around - you don't even get embarrassed! You let the kid take ownership of their actions and let them enjoy the natural consequences of it!

You don't harass the kid to get their dirty clothes ready for the family laundry, you tell them, in advance, when it will be done, and you do the clothes that are there. If the kid's clothes are, great! If they aren't, the kid must want to do their clothes themselves at some other time. End of worrying about it!

But this model of well reasoned behavioral expectations and State Teaching Standards doesn't quite play at PS 105, does it? 

I'll have to think about that some more...
siliconjim

July 6th, 2006

The Payroll manager was interested in the subject I teach and very happy to hear me say, "math!"

He has a problem to solve!

How does he figure out how much to pay each of 103 employees a fair share of a $39,250. fund based upon how many weeks they worked over a ninety-four week period?

What would you do?

He has to pay all of the money out to the 103 employees on a fair and equal basis that reflects their work over a period that covered 94 weeks.

Well, we did it and we verified the accuracy of the calculations. He is one happy camper!

I now have a lovely problem for my students to work on that involves math in a real world situation that really matters to the people getting the money!

It's good to be involved in IISME for our students!
siliconjim

I tried the rich text link and it did show me some tools, but I don't get it! Maybe some day!

July 5th, 2006

Can we talk?

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I have seen some posts alluding to the same topic and I wanted to share my experiences at AC Transit as well as at school, with my principal and my students, when it comes to initiating a conversation.

In general, at AC Transit I defer to the priorities of the staff here. I allow them to set the order and practice patience while they do. If they need my attention for any reason, I drop what I'm doing.

My mentor is the Chief Financial Officer and a remarkable lady. Her capacity for focus and multitasking are astounding! She also has the advantage and insight of working for the Oakland Unified School District in a similar capacity some years past. How many, I don't even ask!

I have a standing appointment with her daily in the mid-morning time slot. It has actually been held a few times so far! I believe it will become less frequent and more catch as catch can until we start approaching some milestone dates. I update her along the way with e-mail and attachments.

When we do meet, the meetings are very comfortable and informative. They are also interrupted by other things; such as phone calls and paperwork requiring a signature. I find it easy to be unfettered by it. She always asks, "May I take care of this for a moment?" I evacuate the room when she takes a call unless she indicates that I should stay.

With my principal at school, I find it to be a very similar situation with one exception: I don't command the same patience as I do here. The key difference is the requirement, and compelling need I feel, to be in my classroom and interacting with my students. We began to hold Leadership meetings during the last period of the day as we had completed our WASC visit and were following up on some work associated with that. I had to provide what amounts to substitute lesson plans for another teacher covering the class. It was an imposition, I thought, and inconsiderate, too. When I considered the alternative, holding the meetings after school, I became more proactive in preparing lesson plans for the substitute!

With my students, I find myself reacting to them in a manner that suggests that I haven't thought through the classroom management for the situation. What is an effort on my part to be available and accessible for them, may well be creating an opportunity for a little shenanigans on their part. I try to meet their needs with good answers to their questions and by not having them stand around too long. When they get itchy, things can start going wrong that don't need to!

I will think this through some day and try to establish a classroom management procedure for it. When I do, I will probably remember a navy lieutenant I worked with who was relating his anguish over a particular senior enlisted man in his department who always seemed to need to interrupt his skillful management of his department and the fulfillment of his duties. "I would be just about ready to go storming onto the bridge" he said, "when you know who reminded me about a message in the traffic. It stopped me dead in my tracks and prevented me from putting my foot knee deep into my mouth! I found it easier to be patient with him after that!"

Our students need some wiggle room, as scary as that sounds! If we constantly harangue them with reminders and go ranting about our well thought out procedures every time they open their mouth, we just reinforce the belief that they are not worth our time. I'm certain that, for any teacher who actually does enjoy the opportunity to interact with their students, it is not what we would do if we thought about it. So I will remember my navy lieutenant and the patience I could command while I wait for a meeting with my mentor, or even having a meeting with her!
siliconjim

July 3rd, 2006

How can I get there?

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I had an interesting experience on Sunday morning in San Francisco. I was driving my wife, her brother and his wife to a Yoga class next to UCSF near Golden Gate park, right next to Kezar Stadium. Well, that's what we finally figured out.

We were traveling from the Fishermen's Wharf area to meet with a person at the Yoga class. I had general directions which included the 1200 block of Arguello Boulevard at the south side of Golden Gate Park. I had directions from Van Ness to the park entrance, which took us by the Fillmore Jazz Festival, by way of Masonic.

We found Arguello and followed it to the park only to find the entrance closed with barricades. We began to improvise following the park west to 19th Avenue and crossed to the south side of the park. We followed that street east until it returned us to Masonic. After meandering around Haight Ashbury, we returned to Arguello and decided to ask at a gas station. When I looked at the map the station had, I realized that we had been only a couple of blocks away from our destination at Masonic and Haight!

It occurred to me that, had I had the willingness to look around the corner a little bit, I would have been able to find my destination. I realized that this is an experience that we ask our students to engage in during every lesson: stay with it and look around the corner. How else can we hope to find out where we are going if we are unwilling to even take a look?

In my little experience, I started out boldly with very little information, and I didn't take the time to do my homework. Along the way, I was sidetracked and could have failed to arrive at my destination if I was unwilling to ask for help. (Now, ladies, please don't go there with the generalization about guys getting lost and refusing to ask for directions!) I did become frustrated and I needed some help to find the answer to my problem. Luckily, there was a willing and able person that I found to save the day!

I will certainly use this experience to shape the way in which I plan and execute lessons. More importantly, I will use this experience to let students find their own reasons to "look around the corner". In fact, I think it will serve as a great lesson to start the year out right with an understandable way for students to rationalize the purpose behind the goal of learning to do the math! I believe it can be accomplished by sharing my little story of success and allowing them to offer their own experiences of accomplishment. I will try to subtly layer some classroom management around it in order to build a foundation for successful learning this year in math! Yeah!

siliconjim

June 30th, 2006

Having felt a little twinge of technical success at getting on line with the chat group this morning, I wanted to reflect upon the experience.

I found it to be like watching a tennis match at Wimbledon while trying to read the Times (London, of course!) and enjoy one's strawberries and cream! Or was it like trying to teach a lesson to some itchy teenagers, answer a persistent telephone, provide a pencil for a student and correct a student's inappropriate use of a cell phone all while dealing with the blaring whistle of the train?

Before you get going, I know, its called classroom management. Which of the above distractions can we take care of with well thought out classroom management practices? Let's review that scene once more, shall we?

Teaching a lesson to itchy teenagers. One idea I WILL employ is the use of a informational poster that I produce with little helpful hints for Lesson Time:

100% focus for 100% of the lecture required!
(I will make it a practice not to go to or answer the classroom phone during a lesson. If it's that important, they'll try again!)
Students will have a working pencil with an eraser upon entering the classroom. Pencil rent is 25 cents per day!
(Cell phones, within the site of the staff, are forbidden. Designated sanctions apply.)
I'll have to get the schedule for that @##%^ train right next to our school and plan accordingly!

It really did feel a little like a cocktail party without music or beverages. Because of the written format, I could follow with a little extra effort. I may have found a model for the kind of focus I want my students to achieve during lesson time! "Pay attention like you would if you were chatting with some very good friends!" Then I MUST pare down the content and the information part to what is absolutely necessary!

I think I now understand what students experience when they are in a classroom and there is little classroom management, lesson planning and learning going on!

Thank you for allowing me to participate in this wonderful experience!

siliconjim

Fiday morning CG on AIM

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I'm feeling as though I am NOT able to access this at work! If so, I will have to involve the Technical department here.
Oh, well!
siliconjim

June 29th, 2006

Background: my sponsor project is to revise and expand a training manual, entitled "Balancing Act", into a user friendly, all encompassing digest of information that guides a user to fill out any form required between departments that the Finance Department must process in order to meet the Transportation District's goals. The Balancing Act is a public agency so a whole host of compliance criteria come into play - don't we know it! The current work is compiled of offerings from each Department and group so it appears disjointed and requires a user to sort through each part's idiosyncracies in order to figure out what to do.

As a result of blogging, working on the sponsor's project, and evaluating my teaching practices, I have come to the startling conclusion that this profession requires an entire array of professional skills be combined to plan, execute, evaluate and revise the practice of delivering educational services to our students. We need to use the computer and be a computer simultaneously! (Wouldn't you LOVE to take the State Teaching Standards along with the curriculum and compile a Comparable Worth for teachers!) As such, we must accept our limitations and our failures in delivering exactly what is needed, exactly the right way to exactly the right student(s) to meet the demands of the profession as currently stated. We will try, earnestly and diligently. When it comes to evaluating our efforts, especially as it relates to fitness to continue teaching, we must be cognizant of the enormity of the task we have taken on and the complexity of its accomplishment.

So, how do I successfully complete the sponsor's project?

One aspect of it that greatly concerns me is the anticipation of an eye catching vibrant document that explains in detail how to fill out everything from a Direct Deposit form to a travel reimbursement report so that any employee picking up the manual would find what they are looking for, be able to understand it and translate it into the correct form and process to get the job done! Whoa! But that's what we are trying to do in our classrooms, too!

This is a call, a desperate call for assistance in identifying a robust software for desktop publishing that does not require a Masters degree in Computer Science to use. Help!

I can't wait to get to time sheet submission for the different departments of the district! Do I format all instruction to be cookbook style? Do I include background explanation verbiage? Do I use logic flow charts to explain processing?

I believe I will discover the answer is "Yes, sometimes you do!"

I'm thinking about the words of wisdom offered by John Madden: "Don't worry that the ox is blind, just load up the cart!"

Anxiously awaiting your invaluable input...
siliconjim

June 27th, 2006

missing kitty

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Last night, my son (age 24) returned home from helping a friend move furniture to find that his kitten, Kitsune (little fox in Japanese), had been let out and had taken off for parts unknown. The last time this happened, the cat was gone for five days. He was not happy with this development and let his mother know of it in no uncertain terms. (She had let the cat out on purpose.) He was amazingly distraught! I felt compelled to check on him as he had locked his bedroom door. I was concerned he might be suicidal, he was that upset! and no, he had never been exhibiting suicidal tendencies before. Just Dad trippin'!

Well, the cat is back and the drama is over - for now.

What the event reminds me of is the strong tendency among my students to actively engage in such drama. My continuation high school students, most from systemic generational poverty, have plenty of substance for drama in their lives already! They add more! For fun and entertainment, a girl not at our school will call a girl at our school and inform her that another girl at our school is going to beat her up very soon. The so notified girl does NOT call the other girl. She calls her friends to get her group going on her behalf. With another phone call or two, our school's collective morning is in the toilet! Stress levels go up and it's just like throwing a lit match into the fireworks box. (I got my 4th of July reference in early!)

I have always believed that our students need a sustained, professionally developed and administered program of social skills training. Coping skills and anger management are just two of the social skills for which the need is critical. Naturally, the reason we don't have such a program includes the following two reasons: no funding and make it the teacher's job. After all, when you can't possibly take on the responsibility for such a thing at an administrative level, and there is no funding to even begin to try to, just ball it all up into a State Teaching Standard or call it classroom management. I have already seen three teachers run out of teaching by way of their class assignment for poor classroom management. Their courses and the students assigned to them, in background and number, were more properly assigned to an armed and trained corrections officer than a teacher. In these three cases, the level of administrative support would have been improved if it were nonexistent! Can you imagine being assigned to such a crowd and then have an administrator creating even more problems for you? One guy quit and left the country. His replacement was not reelected, but asked to teach summer school. Yeah, right! (I'll explain this gesture to you at a later time!) The comprehensive high school in my district goes through more than half of the math department every year because of just this kind of thing. We track students for school of attendance for AYP numbers, why not teachers too?

My question is this: What is being done about the actual problems that our schools face in order to improve the education of our children on a national, or, better yet, societal basis? Under the regulations and their administration as they exist, what can be done at the local level to begin to solve these problems and, at the same time, actually improve the education of our children? I do NOT mean this artificial, trumped up Annual Yearly Progress baloney! I mean the process of teaching and learning leading to greater knowledge and the quest for more of it.

If there is anyone who can clarify the situation I describe herein, or has any potential remedy for it, I'm all ears (eyes?)!
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