I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

30 January 2011

no tiger beat cinema for tiger mothers

If you do not let your children try out for and perform in the school play, they commit suicide.  This leads to mass, Walt Whitman-inspired rebellion and Robin Williams getting fired.

That is my sum total response to the whole Yale-professor-child-rearing-by-suppression-rarrhr-tiger meme.

Actually, I hate the whole Competitive American Parenting drama, not only because I don't think competition is such a nifty thing but also because it feeds Compulsive American Blaming.

Your parenting is unlike mine, so you are a bad parent.  You, lady, work/don't work outside the home, so you are a bad mother.  You live in subsidized housing, so by definition you shouldn't have had any children because you can't afford them.  Our schools would be perfect if only we could get rid of all these bad teachers.  The problem with education today is that some kids don't have any respect.  This is because their parents didn't teach them and their teachers are useless.

This is deficit thinking, and deficit thinking hasn't gotten us very far.  We're so focused on what we think is going wrong (other people being bad, whatever bad may be) that we can't see what's working.  When you can only think about the negative, you're not going to be able to do anything positive; you see problems and your solutions are punitive.  Moreover, you're a real drag to be around.

Deficit thinking is self-limiting.  It assumes the worst about everyone.  It makes you suspicious, and that becomes prophecy: eventually, you're so unlikeable that they really all are out to get you.  And when all you can do is judge, you're certainly steamrolling over new ideas, divergent perspectives and new learning.

I actually work hard to assume best intentions.  This is easier for me with some groups (parents, children, etc.) than with others (District administrators, blame-unions-first Rethuglicans and reformers).  But it's worthwhile, and part of what makes me a good teacher is that I know what good teaching looks like - and that it can look very different from what I do.

22 January 2011

Win Some, Lose Some

Serrano II is one of those great moments of American juriprudence in which it is clear that justice may be blind, but if you slip a big enough wad of cash in her toga she'll feel it.

On its grounds that the Constitution neither includes the right to a free, public education nor finds that providing one to some but not all citizens is a 14th Amendment issue, the adequacy lawsuits against the state failed Friday.  They can continue as equity lawsuits, which I hope they do - although that's less useful in SFUSD, I'd say.  With its broad region of schools, some wealthy and others not and all sharing the same property tax base I don't know that an equity argument would go that far.  It could mean a lot for districts in the South Bay, though - San Jose is a patchwork of districts with widely varying tax bases.

On the other hand, Judge Highberger continues to hold that school district certificated contracts cannot be used to block equal opportunity rights.  So LAUSD will be required to protect all teachers' jobs, regardless of seniority, at forty five schools.  At the other 700-odd schools, layoffs must be evenly divided.

While this sets no precedent, I do think it's high time for SFUSD officials and BoE members to stop explaining how the law ties their hands and demands they inequitably lay teachers off because of those terrible union contracts.  It was tiresome last year - when they didn't ignore the point, or claim how they hated what they were doing while still doing it, or throwing themselves behind the august opinion of the District legal office, they really should make some attempt at going Beyond the Talk this year.

That means at the very least being honest about their tied hands.  It requires more than lip service to equity. I imagine that the lay off lists will be the usual anti-equity reading delight, but I hold out the hope that the District is more honest about the decisions it's making.

16 January 2011

Paranoia, Paranoia

Sometimes I wonder if the academic push in Kindergarten is not on some level intentional.  After all, if we don't provide the space for collaboration, cooperation and empathy, children won't explore these skills.  If we don't value play and creativity, children will not expect recreation and think in expected, well-worn tracks.  If we demand fluent reading and the ability to decode nonsense words, we express the importance of reading to decode - not reading to learn, or to understand, or for enjoyment.  And if legibility is more important than content, we demonstrate the importance of form over function.

All of that would be a really great scheme for boring good workers who don't ask too many questions or expect too much.

Which is why it is very important that we have plenty of snail-racing time and write silly stories about hot dogs, I think.

12 January 2011

When the Standards are too Low

Apparently after too many years of insane, irreality-based budgeting the media is ready to accept any budget that agrees on simple principles like services cost money and California has a deficit will be greeted with hosanas.

Seriously, it's time to refuse to cut education and social services unless there will be an actual cut to prison budgets.  For years, Governors have assumed unspecified cuts to prisons.  These cuts never materialize; prison funding is not down (it's up AND we have a brand-new death chamber!).  Yet schools, elder care, Medi-Cal and CalWORKS take specified hit after hit.

These cuts have an impact on the need for prison financing.  And the state of the budget presently says something rather ugly about our priorities.  We apparently value punishment over people.

Schools will now spend the next six months in a state of lowered morale - layoffs and budget worries bring no good to anyone.  A lot of energy will be put into trying to avoid the worst.

And the Bay Area CEO Council currently can't get behind continuing even the tiniest temporary tax.  It's a job-killer, they intone without evidence.  Apparently their member CEOs do bang-up business among the incarcerated.

Moreover, while this budget may prove something to the middle class, it's worth noting that scorched-earth tactics mean someone gets scorched.  In this case, AS ALWAYS, it will be the poor who get burnt so we can learn a lesson.  Whether we will learn that lesson or blame them for their inability to hire better lobbyists is an open question, I think.

11 January 2011

State Budget Funtimes.

Brown's budget apparently maintains current K-12 funding (except the general fund is smaller, so the 98 MINIMUM is smaller).  He is assuming some temporary taxes are continued, which involves the GOP minority allowing the voters to vote on that and the voters voting affirmatively.

HOWEVER, that's his budget.  So we shouldn't be playing doom times again in SFUSD, which needs to budget based on the Governor's budget.  I predict that they will budget based on doom times, however, because SFUSD is only ever able to balance its budget through layoffs (being absolutely unwilling to consider alternative proposals; where's that report on the alternate budget again?  Or the budget equity report?  Would that be: NOWHERE?).  And while SFUSD will be fully able to do late layoffs (after the 15 March/May deadline) again this year (YES: you can lay off tenured staff legally, and the 15 March/May thing is not the only window), why do that when they can lay those complainy teachers off now?

After all, equity matters only when there are adequate funds for it.  Otherwise, let the same system continue!

I do hope that SFUSD will take some personal responsibility for its decisions in re cuts this year rather than assuming a saint-like posture of blamelessness and rueing the naughty bad state.  It's true the state budget is an annual atrocity.  It is also true that equity requires radical action in the face of atrocity.  Shifting the blame is institutional racism.  There really isn't any way to get around that.

08 January 2011

Art for Art's Sake

Thursday afternoon I got delivery of most of a Donors Choose grant that was entirely extremely fancy crafts stuff:
  • flower rhinestones
  • wikki stix in large enough quantity for making things to take home
  • stamper markers
  • fabric shapes
  • shiny things
  • class pack of scented stix markers (I haaate scented markers, but oh do children love them.)
Anyway, on Friday I put out many of these things and let the kids go to town.  It was a bit more than a half hour of creative exploration with no goal other than making stuff.  I mean, this is Kindergarten, so there was motor development, cooperation and language stuff embedded simply through supply manipulation, having to work with a couple of kids in one's group and describing what you were doing.  But there wasn't any strict content integration, thematic purpose, BIG GOAL or any of that kind of stuff.

It was really quite marvelous.  In fact it was the kind of period where the kids get into little competitions about who can come up with the best description for how great a teacher I am.  I'm not going to lie: a little self-validation by happy five year olds is a great thing.  Beyond that, everyone deserves the opportunity to go to town with a sheet of acrylic gemstone stickers, a sentence strip and some paint.  We all need the opportunity to be creative just for fun.  Everyone should have the chance to use materials that are beautiful (I assure you: acrylic gemstone stickers are beautiful to five year olds).

In other news, I wore a new coat on Friday and no child complimented it.  This was disappointing.  Also this week, a first grader I had last year asked me why all of my clothes are always too big.  Apparently he does not understand why one buys a 100% cashmere coat at a thrift store even if it is a couple of sizes too large (and a swing style at that).  In what may have been some kind of self-subliminal response, the next day I wore a skirt suit with a shorter skirt than I typically wear and was very, very popular with the Princess Society all day long.

03 January 2011

Sad Day.

I am dropping two students from my roll.  One moved out of the country; the other's family lost their home and is living across town in a shelter.  Even with McKinney services, the commute is a big hassle so they are trying for a more convenient school location.

I miss them already.