I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

25 September 2010

I Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident.

  1. The ultimate purpose of hanging standards with wall displays is to please disaffected, out of the classroom and generally useless administrators who cannot be bothered to observe actual teaching and learning and therefore want to wall-walk to decide how useful you are.
  2. Given the lack of knowledge about standards in the arts, standards-posting dumbs down schools by mandating boring, strictly academic wall displays of limited beauty and interest.
  3. Given that California is more or less "between standards" right now, having adopted Common Core but teaching from the state content standards-aligned textbook adoptions, standards-posting is particularly useless at present.
  4. When one has encapsulated asbestos that precludes anything being hung from the majority of walls in one's classroom, standards-posting is a real waste of space and time.
What with the redesign, all the schools have a new host of administrators to please, all of whom bring their favorite pieces of school reform for our immediate adoption. Given that education reform assumes negative practice needing amelioration/reform (hey, don't take my word for it: even the Rheecolytes over at the Washington Post say so in their style guide), they come looking for their pet answer to the reformer question ("Why do all you classroom teachers hate children so much?").

If I seem a little irked, well that's because I am, having never desired the affected disaffection associated with popular British acts of the 80s.

Not only have I outlasted many school reform programs, I've also lived through many different procedures for administrative walkthroughs, and have hosted visitors both local and federal (with a stop at state-level functionaries, who in my opinion are the worst.  Living in Sacramento does nothing good for one's joie de vivre, and man do they take it out on you).

There was the three-minute-and-a-sticky-note period, which wasn't so bad because at least they left a post-it that informed you what their general takeaway was.  (I also had a really great principal at the time, a natural teacher who left administration to go back into the classroom, and that principal left useful questions or comments.)  I have several copies of Good to Great and other insipid corporate screeds floating around for kindling, I mean for drinking games at parties.  (I do not condone book-burning, and I don't want these things back on the market, so they hide out at my house.  Besides, you never know when a freak blizzard might hit, taking all power and leaving subarctic conditions.)  There was the biweekly long visit period, the you will all be on the same page at the same time at least you will be when the Reading Lions people show up period...

In my old district, our school's Kindergarten team was a go-to place for other district teachers to visit.  Our kids did quite well on district assessments, our Kindergartens were always full and the state team never had anything concrete to pin on us.  That said, it was also very well known that we did not in fact follow our state-mandated program to the letter, as mandated with a mandate, mandately.

That's because we taught Open Court.  Open Court, if taught by the book in Kindergarten, will not finish introducing letter sounds until mid-May.  That's a real problem for Kindergarten writing.  The literature selections are horrible, bad enough that a trainer told a room of teachers that the purpose of readalouds in Kindergarten is not the enjoyment of literature but the teaching of reading strategies (these two being in a dichotomy, apparently).  Kids will only learn thirty-three sight words, too.

If you want academically high-performing Kindergarten students, you're going to need to massage that curriculum.  Sounds will have to be introduced earlier, you'll need more sight words and, unless you want to hate yourself, your life and what your students will become, you'll be selecting your own readalouds.  We did this.  It was so well-known that we did this that there is an ex-district, now state-employee who used to warn my trainer about me at the annual AB466 training.  (One year she even read my homework to see if I was putting any anti-Open Court sentiment in there.  Looking back, it's kind of amusing (E. Rat: SUPERVILLAIN!  Debonair criminal, subverting Open Court trainings with real linguistics and Whole Language principles!  Fetch me my cape and/or stylish trench!  I prefer black!) but then it wasn't, and she did manage to get a colleague of mine fired.  Our kids did well.

But for site visits, the District wanted us to sing the party line: flip the alphabet cards back over, hide the extra sight words, find the OCR big books.  They wanted us to lie to our fellow teachers, to say that we did use the curriculum just like they did, and our results were better because of our intrinsic yet learnable awesomeness.  If they'd just try a little harder, their students could also excel, because Open Court works.

Reading this, it sounds like Catch-22 level paranoia (only a lot less humorous and well-written).  Sadly, it's not; the district and the Reading Lions had convinced themselves that the program worked, and when it didn't it was the teaching - and despite knowing we weren't toeing the line, they held us up as an example of what they believed.

The other drag of visits is that invariably nine will be normal or even awesome days, and the tenth will be horrible.  The kids will not be fidgety (I have in the past been both reprimanded and praised for letting students fidget/not sit criss cross applesauce/getting self-regulation items), they'll be lethargic.  Or twenty will be on their game, but number twenty one is having a meltdown of epic proportion, requiring immediate attention and leaving the other twenty to notice the strangers and react appropriately (tension?  check.  strange adults?  check.  teacher stressed out?  check.  unpleasant noise?  check.  peer melting down?  check.  All systems set for pandemonium!)

And speaking of these meltdowns, high-needs schools are going to get more than their fair share.  In this class - like any other at my school - I have students who are currently homeless, whose parents have had custody terminated, whose family members are incarcerated, who have experienced family violence and sexual abuse, who are experiencing food insecurity, who have sensory integration issues that lead to overstimulation, who do not trust strange adults because no good has ever come from one, who...

If wallwalkers want to be welcomed, they need to have a sit down with school staff first and explain why they're there, what they are looking to do and how they plan to help.  They can then do the same for the students whose classrooms they'll be interrupting.  And then they're going to need to visit regularly and get down in it - look at some data, find out about the neighborhood, come every day for a week to see the flow and stay quite a while in each class.  Then their takeaways will be useful: an outsider, but an informed one, whose perspective can be welcomed.

Otherwise they're just looking to feed whatever notion of school success and failure was popular when they got demoted outside the classroom.

In other news, for the first time ever I wore apparel that was worthy of compliment in the eyes of one of the extreme Jeremy's fashionistas (not the nice young college kids who work there rocking 70s revival wear, the other ones).  Perhaps I can continue to win praise so that when choice items from 2010 F/W start appearing I will know about it first. (Funnel neck bird print dresses, you made your first appearance 1.5 years ago and at this point we're approaching full ADHD hyperfocus.  Come to Jeremy's. Sport attractive price tags.  Be the envy of my Kindergarten students.)

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