I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

29 December 2010

Fabulous Teacher Taste

This summer when thrifting, I found and tried on a vintage Lacroix skirt.  It was too big, even to wear as a dress, so I didn't buy it.  I also thought more seriously about buying one of those very 80s Moschino Cheap and Chic jackets but decided I don't really need shoulders that boxy.

Anyway, I saw one of these on 1st dibs with a 200% markup and the other at a fancy vintage store, tagged four times as much as it cost when I tried it on.  San Francisco isn't a big city: these are definitely the same pieces.

The point is: my scrounging is fantastic.  I am tempted to claim I should buy stuff to resell it like this, but who am I kidding?  I'd end up wearing it, spilling paint on it, or giving it to someone who would fit into it better than I do.

In other scrounging news, I picked up muslin for fish-printing and a mess of remnant Dia dos Muertos themed fabric bits for next year, job assuming.

We Saw It On Tee Vee.

I am one of those irritating, superior pinkos who does not own a television.  In my own defense, I don't really mention my lack-of-television status and am not opposed to watching television shows on my computer or something.  I forced friends, family members and neighbors to turn over their television for my World Cup viewing pleasure.  When I am not really feeling like working out, some "Countdown" on the gym television can get me piqued enough to get going (True story: I got so aerated reading about Tom DeLay in Mother Jones a few years back that I had to stop exercising and calm down).  I read recaps on Project Rungay.  Etc.  It's just that, what with the ADHD, I have a real problem sitting through entire shows.  Even with the commercial breaks and something to do with my hands, I get distracted.  Then I am irritated because I have missed key plot details.  Also, I am incapable of being home when shows I might want to watch are on and even less capable of recording them proactively.

So spending the money on a television and cable set up seems like a big waste.  I mean, over the course of a year that would put a big crimp in my shopping budget.  Indeed, it might keep me from purchasing new boots.  That would be catastrophic.  Hyperbole is good for you.

Of course, the kids in my class see plenty of television, and from an amazing cornucopia of genres and historical periods at that.  Invariably, 50% of my class is familiar with Chucky.  I do not know what it is about the big, ugly, badly-dressed misogynistic doll with a knife that is so appealing to five year olds.  Having seen maybe twenty minutes of a Chucky movie, though, I know I disapprove.  Sponge Bob is invariably popular; this year my class has a number of Barney fans.  The latter is something of a surprise; usually the dinosaur is "too baby".  Perhaps they skewed the show to attract a new demographic; I no longer try to keep up on Kindergarten Fandom Crazes.

Television has led to some funny events:

  1. I have a kid this year who, prior to running, waves his arms in circular motions as if he is in a Warner Brothers cartoon.
  2. I had a kid who used to cross his feet, point with both hands and wink as if he were doing the Madison whenever his picture was taken.
  3. One kid a couple years back used to make little fists, drop his head back and scream "REVENGE!" whenever irritated.
  4. He would also, after teasing a peer or getting in trouble, holler "You'll never take me alive!" and run around the room.
  5. Another child makes the "Home Alone" face whenever something untoward happens in a story.
Children's literature is good for this, too.  Mr. Frimdimpny gets imitated a lot, and many cafeteria items require the occasional muncha.  As a last day in 2010 treat, I brought some sugarless bubble gum in for a little Trouble Gum action.

In other news, today's big task is the DMV.  Exciting!  I successfully found glasses I can tolerate, so I am waiting to pick these up.  I got prescriptions refilled, had my old boots fixed and owe the dry cleaner $100 for cleaning (and an alteration on a fine, if salvaged Alberta Ferretti dress, one I am technically capable of doing but far too lazy to actually do).  I need to finish report card comments, but they're done otherwise.  This means that I should be able to get District-printed 8.5X17s, as opposed to classroom-printed 8.5x14s.  All in all, I've been fairly productive over the break.

28 December 2010

It is link day.

I have issues with KIPP.  If I could get over their issues with student and teacher attrition, I'd still have problems with their boot camp discipline - the kind of discipline that KIPP's overlords would never allow for their own kids, but are fine using on poor children of color.  Were I able to come to terms with the punitive management, the anti-union sentiment would get me, and even if I hadn't been raised by union laborers, I'd have to question the lack of cultural competence and remedial pedagogy that KIPP supports.

In short: not a fan.  I don't buy the hype, I find their rhetoric offensive and their theory of change racist and repugnant.

This is a report on the shenanigans at KIPP Fresno:

Notice to Cure and Correct

Perhaps, like me, you're curious as to what Mr. Tschang is up to these days.  I think I may have seen an update on Schools Matter, but couldn't find it.  However, a quick Google search presents this charter school network blog.  He's a "Regional Superintendent".

I don't believe bad conduct in one job should mean one is doomed for life.  I believe in redemption and righting wrongs.  It's possible that Mr. Tschang no longer believes starving children, cheating on federal programs and state tests, and the humiliation of kids in the name of discipline are acceptable policies.

The fact that he highlights his KIPP experience with nary a mention of the circumstances that led to his resignation, coupled with his denials and denigrations of those who spoke against him suggest to me that he has not had a change of heart.

You know, it gets tiresome hearing about the innovative innovations at those unfettered and fancy-free charter schools - particularly as they use their extra private money for heavy administrative chains like Achievement First has while I can look forward to my fourth annual pink slip as I total the hundreds of dollars I've spent this year on enabling creative, multimodal learning experiences in my classroom.

But when those innovations are abusive to children, it's appalling.

And Now, A Message from Our Corporate Overlords

With 18 whole months teaching, you have all the answers for sure.

24 December 2010

Christmas List!

Dear Red-Suited Imaginary Arctic Gift Givers,

I may not have been good this year, but definitely I did good things.  Despite epic budget cuts, regular interludes without heat and the daily denigration of my profession, I have successfully taught my students to read, figure, and treat others with a modicum of respect.

Given American capitalism's "pay for breathing" plans for CEOs, I suppose I could demand presents without any work.  However, the same Rand-reading illiterates* receiving bonuses for their ability to take in oxygen seem to think teachers have something to prove.**  Hence the above.  Additionally:

  • I did NOT go to New York so that I could be used to denigrate my own profession.
  • I voted in all elections.
  • I spoke at Board meetings, gave interviews to the press, and had my picture in national publications. In all venues, I observed that equity is not equality.
  • I spoke against child-blaming, parent-blaming and teacher-blaming.
  • I took responsibility for my students' learning and demanded that the powers that be take responsibility for their inequitable actions.***

I'm worthy.  I demand presents:

  1. Math and reading games to fill the backpacks for my students to take home this summer.
  2. Bird print funnel neck dress, size 38 or 40 IT.
  3. SFUSD cuts administrative paychecks and positions BEFORE cutting teacher jobs.
  4. UESF does not capitulate on "No Layoffs".
  5. We get the PAC-TIN grant.
  6. Magical black tights that do not get ladders.
  7. Aga Six-Four stove and range.
  8. 20:1 class size reduction K-12 throughout the state.  12:1 reduction at "high needs" schools (say, those with FRLP over 75% and/or those serving a major public housing development).
  9. Lots of nifty light fiction.
  10. My very own cross trainer and/or elliptical machine.
As you can see, my desires are both many and extravagant.  I figure such an attitude has served Lloyd Blankfein well, so it can't hurt me any.

In anticipation,

E. Rat

*Yes, I meant for that to happen.  You don't really need strong reading comprehension skills to suffer through Ayn Rand.  Her books are all a disturbing amalgamation of bad, mildly sadomasochistic romance novels and repetitive semi-philosophical pablum.
**And the ones who didn't slap some sense into those boys DO.
***Not that they did, of course.  How much you want to bet that Garcia declines to take a solidarity pay cut (beyond furlough days) again this year?

23 December 2010

Budget Apocalypse 2011: The Second Coming of Jerry

Last week, the Governor-Elect had one of his charming little summits in Los Angeles.  This one was on education.  The key takeaways were that we need to stop bothering Jerry so much.  I mean, you'd think he'd run for Governor or something on a platform we were expecting him to keep.

...hey, Jerry?  YOU DID.  So can it.

Anyway, he agreed that education had taken the brunt of the cuts, but that was just too bad and to expect more and more miserable cutting in his next budget.  Also, he wants a passed budget in 60 days upon his entry.  Furthermore, Californians aren't willing to pay for the services they want, so that's just tough for school people.  And everyone else, too: the budget he's apparently planning to propose is going to be a big nightmare.  Sez Jerry.

Dan Walters of the Sac Bee thinks this is all part of Jerry's big plan:
  1. Propose a truly miserable budget that cuts all services to the bone, particularly popular ones like education.  (Note to Dan: Dude, in the case of education, we'll be on to the marrow now.)
  2. Propose special election for a tax hike.  Campaign for tax hike is "This budget or your money".
  3. Get state Congress to pass Doom Budget.
  4. Taxes win in special election.
  5. Have a new, better budget ready to go.
This seems plausible, if stupid.  Among other things, I have lived through several special elections in California.  The Groper's "Pensions for None, Money for Me" special election went down big (even the one good proposal on it: re-regulating utilities).  The "We Passed a Budget that Counts on You to Raise Taxes on Lower and Middle Income People" special election didn't go over so well either.  Moreover, irritants like Dianne Feinstein claimed that the failure was because Californians don't want to pay taxes.  (I dunno about all Californians, but I explained to Dianne that I'm plenty willing to pay taxes and tax corporations and the wealthy.  I'm just not so cool about regressive taxation.  Dianne wrote back to tell me that she knows everything.  Well, more or less that's what it said.  I write to Dianne with some regularity since she's always doing something miserable, and that's pretty much the response I always get.)

So old Jerry's willing to take a pretty big gamble on the photogenic quality of teachers and schools.  Dan Walters observed that he doesn't think the Dems in the state Congress will be so enthusiastic about passing Jerry's Doom Budget.  That's worth crossing one's fingers, I'd say.

It's not that I disagree in principle: we aren't raising state revenues sufficient to what the state needs, and way too many Californians have drunk the Korporate Kool-Aid and think taxes are bad and government takes money just to roll around in piles of it because services are free and those people are the only ones who get any services and those people don't deserve it anyway.  (Gee, sounds like the big old pile of money Jerry sat on until he got 13 for his pains.)

I do disagree in reality.  I look at the news and I note that business interests are praising Austerity Ireland even as it fails...while Iceland refuses austerity and recovers.  I hear whining Rethuglicans bearing giant scissors against the poor.  The interests that don't really care if our schools have enough money to survive have the cash to spend beating a tax proposal.

I don't know what options the state has to fund schools without some kind of revenues deal, and Prop. 26 (dear CTA, CFT: Next time, TAKE A POSITION) will complicate getting the money together.  On the other hand, Perez and the Dems in the Assembly could probably cook up a good scheme to punt this a few years down the road, and frankly?  A few years from down the road can't be as bad as now.

According to Rachel Norton, this sounds like another $25 - 30 million cut for SFUSD.  So I think we teachers can safely assume that we will have to face down our sad, sad BoE and Superintendent as they explain how it's not their fault and that they are far too spineless to refuse to pass a budget and (possibly) go into receivership (along with every other District in the state that's not already there) because if the state takes over, they lose their jobs it's really bad for the children.*  Also, equity only applies in good budget years.  Oh, and those new administrative officials?  Waaaay more necessary than teachers.

More broadly, to both SFUSD and the state, I think we need to start considering the Power of No, the possibility of civil disobedience and the refusal to play by the rules of Pass the Blame and Share the Burden.

And it goes without saying that we should begin planning our protest outfits and colors.  Traditionally, in local protests where schools select a color to identify their contingent, we're big on pink.  This requires some wardrobe arrangement on my part.

*I don't entirely disagree.  I do think that the tender embrace of the educrats and prostisuits at the state isn't worse for my school than the proposal the Board is likely to vote into action.  I've lived through state audit and Reading First: at least we still had teachers.  And I think it is deeply offensive to lecture teachers and communities about The Children without a. taking responsibility for what you are about to do to those children and b. mentioning that state takeover means the state fires the Superintendent and the Board loses its power.  You don't make self-interest dissipate by not mentioning it.

19 December 2010

California Schools: depraved on account of they're deprived.

...dibs on Anita.

13 December 2010

Teacher Esoterica: Useful Clothing Items

  1. Special Operations Field Trip Pants.  Mine have twenty four pockets*.  This is extremely useful: one pocket for MUNI transfers, three big ones for water bottles, one for bandages, one for hand wipes, one for my ids/emergency cash, a mobile phone pocket, camera pocket...  They also have two hanging straps, which enable two extra children to walk with me (if they are having a goat freak out or similar).
  2. Spare Jacket in a Neutral Color.  To leave at school for when the heat goes out or you forget that you have yard duty and are not dressed for more than ten minutes outside.
  3. Fingerless Gloves.  Protect against violently dry hands.
I don't really go in for aprons or fanny packs, which are also pretty popular.

*Not a typo.  24.  They're awesome.

12 December 2010

Lifeskills to Remember and Teach

  1. We say "Thank you!" even if we do not like a present.  No one is required to give us anything, after all.  And therefore I cannot complain about this subscription to a whackamole right wing magazine I was just given, and not even as a gag gift.
  2. Keep our things neat and clean so that others may use them.  They have to last.  Confidential to the ladies who shop at Saks: this means you, too.  Deodorant marks are a no no.  And if the zipper's that tight, you're not going to buy it.  Take it off.  Otherwise, the zipper is broken for the next shopper - good for my wallet but irritating in the extreme.
  3. Say "Hello!" when you answer the phone.  And while you're at it, don't hang up until you know a. who it is and b. why they are calling.  Especially don't hang up when they ask for the teacher: drop the phone and get the teacher.
  4. While it may be a lovely song, we are all tired of it after the tenth repetition.  Sadly, this includes the song I have on infinite replay before school starts.  The poor Resident.

11 December 2010

Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor darkness...

So the thing with a field trip to Slide Ranch is that once you're scheduled, it's do or die.  You need small buses to get there, which ran us $400 a class.  The Ranch itself has a modified lottery system, and to get a fall trip your application is due the June prior.

So the rain did not stop us from going.  Upon arrival, we did open up the question of completing the trip activities to the parent chaperones.  Parents were overwhelmingly in favor of full participation, so we did everything.  Eventually it stopped raining, but I was up to my knees in mud by the end of it (largely due to a freak out in the goat shed, which necessitated a carryout, and I couldn't navigate the board walk with a kid).

On the plus side, the buses had to travel so slowly that I only threw up on the way there.  Which is nothing.

It was a great trip - very exciting and highly engaging.  The rest of the week was something of a wash, though.  Thursday was useless: everyone was tired and grumpy and I still hadn't warmed up.  Friday was marginally better.  Everyone needs a holiday, badly.

We have a week left and it will be quite low key; although report cards now don't go out until 7 January I finished all the assessment.  We have one more verse of "Christmas in Hollis" to learn, and while we made egg nog* (and egg nog ice "cream" from the leftovers) we still have to do something with collard greens.  We're also having an art sale Thursday.  My resident just taught a fairly heavy week of math content, so we'll just continue to review that and introduce nickels: nothing too intense.

Next week is the school dance.  As always, I take the kids who are not able to attend this virtuebration and get crafty with them (I cannot handle the 300 children, loud music and flashing lights of the dance: better to have all the bad-tempered behavior challenging children doing arts projects and making fun of the oldschool hip hop and Afropop we favor in my classroom.)  I think I have the project selected (translucent tile suncatcher grids), I just need demos and grid ideas.

Although I've hit my year goal on filled Donors Choose projects (30 lifetime filled), I am somewhat bummed out because it hasn't been the banner year we had last year, during which I sometimes got two projects in a day over December.  I got backpacks and school supplies for the summer, one for each kid, but not the materials to fill them.  Worksheets aren't terribly useful because it's hard to find ones the kids can do and check independently; most of my students have working parents and/or parents who are not able to check work in English.  So activities and self-checking games are better.  I sent the packs home last year; there was still regression over the summer but it wasn't as intense and some of the kids came back a little more ready in math, apparently (they had a lot of fact practice stuff and got faster).  Still, there's time left.

*No egg, no rum extract soy milk powder egg nog, but egg nog nonetheless.  We did grate fresh nutmeg over it!  And fold in child-whipped cream!

07 December 2010

Proposal of the Day

Cathie Black should immediately cut a check to the New York City public schools in the amount she earns via the two year extension of the Bush tax cut - and demand every plutocrat in her email contact list do the same for their public schools.

It wouldn't make any of it - tax cuts, education by businessperson, etc. - okay, but it would at least replenish the glue stick supplies before the last week of 2010 craftathon.

06 December 2010

Mad Crafty.

Winter Wreaths
You will need:

  • packing peanuts (12 or so per kid)
  • green fingerpaint
  • chenille stems
  • glitter (optional)
  1. Give children a pile of packing peanuts and a dollop of paint.  Encourage them to paint the peanuts using their fingers as opposed to dipping them into their paint.  Mention in grave tones the Dread Project That Never Dries (totally works).
  2. Once children have amassed a pile of green packing peanuts, direct them to impale their packing peanuts onto a chenille stem.  Peanuts should be placed closely together.
  3. Once the stem is largely covered, take stem and send children to nearest soap and water.  Remind them to avoid touching walls, floors, their faces, their jackets and other items until they are less green about the hands.
  4. If you have been smart enough to teach color word metaphors, at least one child will inform you that his or her hands are in fact the green eyed monster.
  5. Curl the chenille stem so that it makes a circle and wrap closed.
  6. Invite children to select a glitter color.  Note that glitter looks best when used sparingly.  Note that if we use up our glitter supply in December, we will not have any in January, February, March, April or May.  Resign self to epic glitter shortages by early Spring.
  7. While projects are still wet, allow children to sprinkle glitter on both sides.  Glitter will adhere to the paint.  Cough theatrically from spendthrift glitter use.
  8. When the projects are dry, a small bow can be made using another chenille stem (half).
  9. Affix wreath to yarn loop or suction cup hook.
These actually come out pretty cute.  The kids are always terribly impressed.  I didn't do them last year, but we did them today.

05 December 2010

So When Does It Turn Into Real Money?

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a SFUSD administrator say "It's only a million dollars", I would have the best wardrobe and best-kitted classroom ever.

I think the most offensive thing in the Trish Bascom scandal is that her lawyer is out there claiming that the kickbacks payments were "bonuses" to hard-working employees.

GAG.  As one of the many SFUSD employees who is losing salary through furloughs and cut Prop. A bonuses, this kind of talk makes me want to break all Student Support Services' pencils and steal their staplers.

That said, I look forward to using this example of SFUSD's absolutely appalling cash-handling skills and administrative spendthrift when they lay off all school staff come March.  It is beyond time for SFUSD to stop clutching its pearls and claiming that financial rigor has come to its central offices: it hasn't.  It is beyond time for SFUSD to take responsibility for its bad choices and its decisions.  I would respect those choices a lot more if instead of claiming that there were huge central office cuts, the District would admit it continues to bulk up administratively.  Offering some rationale for reality is honest.

04 December 2010

Fun Facts and Responsibilities

Despite the fact that I wear a dress to school four days out of five, I am never girly enough for the Princess Contingent in my class.  This group is an annual society with a largely (but not entirely) female membership.  The Princess Contingent is the group that requires the monthly lectures on topics like Why We Don't Share Our Glitter Lip Gloss and No, Really: Pink IS For Everyone.  They also give me regular unsolicited fashion advice, typically covering skirts (should be longer and poufier, preferably involving panniers) and necklines (lower, always lower).

I have found that dressing to please the Princess Contingent on days when I'm not feeling it and the storm clouds are rising can make for a better day.  I think their vocal appreciation of my style rubs off on everyone else and such is my Aura of Nobility via Fashion that kids like to do as I say.

So yesterday I wore this really stunning vintage sheath dress and coat set...AND mascara.  Banner day.

Then I came home and read this.  It includes plenty of quotes and suggestions from state politicians and education figures...already capitulating to the end of 20:1 everywhere, a 170 day school year, and - as always - education taking the brunt of the budget crisis.

Gee, thanks!  Good to know that we are all standing together to protect the state's future...hey, where are you going?  GUYS?!

You know what?  I HAVE HAD IT.  Every year it's the same thing:

  • this year will be the worst, next year will be better
  • we have to "share the pain"
  • there is no appetite for raising taxes
  • 13 is the "third rail"
  • you schools will figure it out somehow
And every year, the next year is in fact worse, the pain is shared among social services and safety nets but not its taxpayers, taxes on the poor and middle class rise while corporations get larger than ever cuts, poor school districts shorten their year, take the hit on their test scores and get told it's all their fault, and good teachers get laid off or decide they're tired of giving up their lives for the state.

And always, as always: poor schools, poor children and the underserved will get it the worst.

So, again: I HAVE HAD IT.

Marching forth on March 4th is not enough.  Filing a lawsuit against the state while capitulating to their budgeting is not enough.  Waving the spectral flag of insolvency and state takeover is not enough.  Conceding to school-destroying layoffs, increased furlough days and larger class sizes to protect...something or other is not enough.

It is time to say no.

It is time to march forth to sit in.  It is time to wildcat strike.  It is time to refuse to negotiate, refuse to sign a budget that kills schools and demand tax increases.  We do ourselves no favors by always finding a way.  We do ourselves no favors by saying that we can't change anything, we have no options and we as little as we like it we'll just have to give in.

I mean, do you see the Captains of Finance doing that?  Aren't we supposed to have the same performance-based (cough) accountability (hack) standards they do?  They don't give in.  They demand what they want, and the next thing you know my tax dollars are saving Goldman Sachs' cash from the AIG pit in exchange for wrecking the economy.

I say we do the same.  Nice isn't working.  Give me reality.

I have the responsibility to make my classroom work for my students.  I have the responsibility to make sure that they master the content standards and develop as decent, inquisitive people.  I take this responsibility everyday, including on those when I have to put on some lipstick and a fancy dress to cover three hours of sleep and stress.

I can't do it with thirty children in my room.  I can't do it on five years of pink slips in a row next to five years of Outstanding evaluations.  I can't do it on two cents for supplies, untrained colleagues and yet another salary cut by furlough.

Responsibility, in this case, demands that I refuse to participate in a system that destroys education.  It requires that I hold elected officials and District administrators to their responsibilities to protect students and teachers.

We need to refuse to allow this to be the worst year.

03 December 2010

If I Put My Jacket Over My Head, Will It Be Over Sooner?

Yesterday's rating: NOT AWESOME.

  1. Member of my family in hospital having major surgery (which went fine, if gruesomely).
  2. Fax machine overloaded as School Transportation cancels each and every free bus field trip already confirmed for this school year.
  3. School under lockdown for most of the afternoon.
  4. The lockdown was due to a shooting, one that killed a former student of our school.
Today we have an oh-so-exciting District Walkthrough, which after a banner three hours of sleep should be fun for child and adult alike.

I predict much painting, crayon melting recycling and similiar this afternoon.  We're all going to need it.

01 December 2010

MAN, the way people complain about the terrible Robin Hood ways of SFUSD and its naughty naughty southeast side schools, you would think that teaching on the southeast side would be more appealing to veteran educators.  I mean, apparently it's all candy and awesome, what with the ample cash (ripped out of westside hands), extra supplies, twelve adults per ten students and whatnot we got going on.

WHATEVER.  It's not only factually inaccurate - the low-seniority schools on the southeast side directly subsidize their higher-seniority peers elsewhere in the District, because teacher salaries and benefits are averaged - it is also offensive.

Southeast side schools have students with more significant needs.  That's just the reality: poor communities are badly serviced generally.  Minor health problems don't get taken care of and they are exacerbated by environmental toxins...the kind one finds in low-income neighborhoods.  My particular school abuts the largest housing project in town; it is a substandard, rundown place with limited public space, serious gang problems and no services outside of local CBOs.  Kids who live there need more than a kid who lives in a single-family home in Noe Valley.  They get less.

That's right: THEY GET LESS.  We are not Robin Hooding anyone; we are Hans Brinkering against a rising tide.

It's convenient, of course, that the poor and their schools provide such an attractive target: nothing like a little infighting to keep everyone from banding together for better school funding (locally: fewer SmartBoards at Cabrillo, more functioning computers at school sites, and state and federally too of course). I presume this is the same audience that believes ACORN and the Community Reinvestment Act caused the recession.  It's the same kind of nonsense, at least.