I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

28 February 2011

Oh, SERIOUSLY.

Dear My Union Leadership,

While I recognize that official District notification of the Special Board Meeting would have been the right thing for the District to do (and that their failure to do so is offensive to their certificated staff and its collective voice)...

if I knew there was a meeting and by Saturday had already read the agenda, then you could have done the same.  I do not have mystical ESP.  The Superintendent does not update me on his nefarious plans to lay off teachers, yet refuse to share the pain personally.  Human Resources doesn't let me see the memos they send to the administrative officials whose contracts aren't getting renewed until after the teachers are officially out the door.  Etc.

In closing, I find your outreach initiative kind of amusing when I am not assuming best intentions.  Otherwise it's great.  It just strikes me that you might try to increase your outreach to your own members, particularly those at non-active school sites and those schools with young staffs first.

Cordially,

I remain,

E. Rat

P.S.  Please do continue to stand strong against "collaboration".

27 February 2011

Optics Again, Scattered Pondering.

So long-term, I don't think it's such a great idea for SFUSD to claim annually that they are laying off 140 administrators.  They're not; they never are.  This year they have pretty much everyone except Garcia on the list of no-renewals.

Still, every year they non-renew-notice 140 or 168 or 100-odd administrators and mention it to the press.  Then they fail to mention the contracts they offer those people in the end.  I think this feeds the idea that administative offices are hugely bloated; if you are not following closely, SFUSD is losing 100+ administrators a year and always has another 100 that can be cut.  It suggests thousands of out-of-the-classroom jobs that don't exist.

Apparently SFUSD only wants 37 elementary layoffs, which is nice from a class-size perspective.  Schoolwise, not so nice (I think the number must be all of the first year teachers in the District?).  That's at least a third of our classroom staff.  (On the other hand, if that's really all they're doing this will be my first year without a certified mail on or around 15 March since I started working in SFUSD.  Huh.)

I'm wondering if there's going to be another round of letters in June for the 60 day window if the budget proposal and tax vote fail.  Certainly the 1 March meeting should be the only Board vote for March, right?  Running another list at the 8 March meeting would be skeevy.

I have this image of our school site and its highly photogenic, television-ready and quoteable educators as the Beckets to the District's King Henry.   Low layoffs or not, going Beyond the Talk means pushing for critical analysis of our decisions from an equity lens.  We'll be pushing that again this year.

26 February 2011

Perils of the Early Start

Were we a late-start school, I would not have needed to walk to work in driving rain and hail.  I was very glad for the new space heater.  While my coat was too drenched to dry out in a day, my shoes were only damp by afternoon.

Whenever we get a heavy rain, the drain in the main schoolyard is overwhelmed and we get a neat lake: a giant puddle that can get to be six inches deep.  It has wind-waves and everything.

Yesterday I taught my class how to fold a paper boat.  We made some predictions and went sailing on Lake Elementary.  Then we wrote about it (new vocabulary word: "waterlogged").

It was awesome!  By nine o'clock it was sunny outside, and the breeze came from different directions so the boats sailed all over the place before taking on too much water and sinking.  No one stepped in the lake but one child mostly on accident (well, and then me and the yard teacher doing boat retrieval).  The kids' writing was really good, too; some of them wrote about the process of boat-making, some of them about the experiment.

In short: good times.

24 February 2011

Patient Zero

One of the reasons teachers take more sick days than you might is really obvious: we get sick more often than you do.  I spend my days interacting with 300 children, twenty of those very closely, all school year.  As a Kindergarten teacher, my students are young and building immunity to childhood diseases...by catching them.

There is not enough hand sanitizer, hot water and soap in the world to protect me - and if there were, the dry skin from constant washing would lead to new entry points for germs anyway.

Since becoming a teacher, I've contracted classic common colds and flus, immunizations notwithstanding (remember the year they guessed wrong on the virus?  I sure do).  I've been exposed to conjunctivitis and strep throat more times than I can count - not to mention head lice and fifth disease.  I've also managed to get some more exotic illnesses.  I missed mononucleosis in college so I could catch it in a Kindergarten (two weeks out of work).  I've had whooping cough (the entire winter break with coughing fits to spare for January).

This year, I have missed more days for District-sponsored professional development and events than I have for illness - for whatever reason, this has been a year of Fever and Chills on the Weekend, but Just a Runny Nose by Monday.  (Also, I can now teach fairly easily through the annual bout of cold-with-laryngitis.)

Beyond that, I think people forget that teaching as a profession is not sitting at a desk eating muffins.  I can't even go to the bathroom when I please.  I really need to be in a good, generous mood all the workday long.  I spend my day on stage, performing for my loyal audience.  And so does every other teacher.  This is emotionally wearing work.  It leaves you open to illness.

Those Teachers Are So Lazy with The Contracts Bust 'Em Already has been a popular trope lately, making its appearance in the New York Times and the usual teacher-loathing sources.  It's offensive.

23 February 2011

Optics Ho!

In general, I think that SFUSD doesn't get optics.  Not the kind involving the eyes, but the kind covering the public reaction to issues - "how it looks in the press", if you will.  For instance, catering Board meetings might be inexpensive in comparison to the overall budget.  It might even be good policy.  It looks really bad when you have laid off teachers, increased class sizes and demanded contract concessions.

Similarly, one could argue that the salaries paid to Central Office employees keep them in the public sector and are in line with other local school districts.  But when you put them on a list and compare that list to school site professionals' salaries, those arguments look weak.

Still, one area where the District gets it right is their annual meeting to send potential no-contract letters to their highest-paid employees.  They always manage to do this before laying off teachers and will make sure that all District officials solemnly announce the number of Assistant Superintendents, Executive Directors and so on who may not be employed next year when being forced to discuss teacher layoffs.

Pressed on the issue, the District will admit that they have no intention of actually letting these people go (or at least they never have before).  So the purpose is at least partially cosmetic.

I am trying to decide if it is worth the effort to organize a big site visit to next week's Board meeting, since our school will undoubtedly be at or near the top of several lists (Most Teacher Layoffs at a Site by Number!  And Also By Percentage of Classroom Staff!  And Most Heavily Impacted High-Needs Site!).  Doing so means organizing around a depressing and futile topic - it's not like the Board will decline to send the letters, even though the 15 March deadline is not the iron-bound Unbreakable Vow they often claim it is - and too many of the District officials have a bad habit of texting or talking while public comment is being made.  That kind of rudeness makes for grumpy.

Additionally, it would take away valuable time from watching this over and over and over.  Presently my only personal concern around layoffs boils down to how badly my New York pin money would be decimated if I am not under contract come early June.  No job means I probably can't buy any really good souvenirs (by which I mean "dresses purchased at certain retail outlets", not "exhibit catalogs or other such fripperies sold at the Met").

22 February 2011

California Education Fun Fact of the Day!

Despite unprecedented funding cuts to public education over the last three years, the state has continued to fund 'basic aid' Districts - those that keep their own property tax monies in exchange for accepting only basic funding from the state - in excess of the state's own constitutional requirement.

So if your district has enough cash from its homeowners and businesses and the taxes they pay, the state rewards your fiscal prudence of being located in a wealthy area by handing you extra cash.

In short, it's more Dooh Nibor funding schemes.  I'm not a fan of basic aid districts - I think Gray Davis was right to challenge them.  By keeping their own pool of money, they may protect their own students, but they do so at the expense of the rest of the children in the state.  The idea that my tax dollars are supporting a little bonus for them is irritating.

21 February 2011

Recyclescrounge-o-Rama

The following things are endlessly useful in the classroom:
  • Glass jars.  Try to get people to soak off the labels (or at least wash and dry them well) first.  These make for candleholders (tissue paper "stained glass), meditation jars, paint mixers and cream shakers (not the same jars, of course).
  • Yogurt containers.  The two-cup Greek yogurt containers are fabulous for watercolor painting water cups.  The little individual ones are good for holding counting chips and things like that.
  • The little trays and containers my Chinese takeout come in.  These are good for holding collage supplies.
  • The trays on which sit summer rolls to go.  I have big containers of colored pencils and thin, non-scented markers (thick markers are in marker stands and stinky markers are out only when needed).  Kids grab a handful for personal or partner use and put them on a tray.  This is time-efficient for me and provides opportunities for negotiation - although it does involve some teaching and class meetings at the beginning of the year.*


*Although honestly I think fights over supplies tend to start with kids assuming that there will never be enough.  While I encourage careful supply use and conservation, I also make sure that we have more than enough of any one thing.  Supply affluence cuts down on hoarding and arguments, and I believe children learn best when they can devote their energy to learning, not worrying about who has a pink crayon and who doesn't.

Whither Whether Whatnot.

Applications for SFUSD placements were due Friday.  Historically the due date - indeed, the whole enrollment process - has no impact on my school life.  I might get a couple of questions from parents whose children I had as to how to ensure their rising Kindergartner is assigned to my class (this happens at the school site; as far as I can tell, EPC otherwise fills our classrooms by completely filling the room that comes first numerically, then the second, and so on.  By this method my class fills last.  We make some changes to balance out the rooms, handle requests/certain needs/family relationships, and in the event of KIT Camp, to as much as possible place KITCampers with their KITCamp teacher.  (Man, I hope we get KITCamp.  Our enrollment was way up this year, which would've made for a better KITCamp enrollment...does that count?)


Presuming I am not laid off and class sizes are not raised to 31:1 (at which point I cannot say with certainty I can teach Kindergarten by myself with no paraeducator or team teacher and have the children be happy and successful, so I'd have to seriously think about What I Am Doing With My Life and Whether It Is Time to Quit to Write Amazing Award Winning Literature*), I will teach Kindergarten again next year (hopefully with a Resident again; I want another one and my current Resident seems to be happy enough to be stuck with me).  I have one sibling coming up.

Other than that, I don't know what our classes will look like or what our enrollment will be.  In my old district, Kinder numbers at my school fluctuated wildly - one year we had four Kindergartens, the next we had six and had to send several children to other schools since we didn't have space for a seventh.  In my time in SFUSD, we have always had the same number of Kindergartens in the end but it has often been a hectic thing with possible combination classes or even actual ones through the 10 day count.  This year we were full; my class is tiny now but I had 22 for a couple of months and then 21 until December which still bums me out and leaves me secretly convinced that families moved not to take new jobs or move closer to relatives but because of me.  This, by the way, is a common teacher delusion many educators have expressed to me in the past- which is the only thing keeping me from depressive brooding and magical thinking.

However, we had a lot of tours this year.  Well, comparatively a lot.  We are a neighborhood school and a small one at that.  Our school is conveniently placed for outdoor education but also on a hill behind another hill.  And our neighborhood is a high-poverty one.  So we are not exactly on the all-District list of top ten Kindergarten choices.  So generally we don't have many tours and those we do have occur after placement offers are made.

It may be a factor of the new enrollment map, but it does not really change our neighborhood allotment.  We are not assigned the housing project from which we draw many students, but we have never been the closest school site (and there are at times closer ones with space).  I feel pretty confident that our students who come from that mini-neighborhood are following in a long line of family tradition.

Anyway, we had tours.  People generally seemed to come away pretty happy, even the people who walked in during my lunch break to find a muddy-booted teacher wearing a grass-stained Catherine Malandrino and carrying a handful of snails.  ("We believe in INQUIRY-BASED SCIENCE!" I avowed in an attempt to explain.)  Since we do have some nifty programs and an articulated philosophy for Kindergarten ("We believe in learning, so we believe in play and the arts") I think we tour pretty well.

I am curious to see if any of these touring families did decide to list us (the District publishes counts) and then if any enroll.  I love my school and my neighborhood - my kids will go there and it is my neighborhood school - and I know we have a first-rate staff.  I wish we were better-funded and had smaller class sizes, but we do well with what we have.  However, I am definitely part of one of "those schools" for some segment of the San Francisco population and honestly, that can get you down.  It's like that whole "bad teacher" framing in our discussion of education - even if you know it doesn't apply, it is a real drag to hear every day.  So at the least I am hoping for a challenge to the narrative, I suppose.

*By which I mean "Spend More Time Dressing Myself, Doodling and Walking Around Aimlessly"

20 February 2011

Actually Different and All That.

Every so often, I encounter one of those helpful, speak-truth-to-power types who opposes overmedication of children.  I also oppose overmedication of children - doesn't everyone?  More supportive environments that affirm the varied ways we learn, interact and feel safe would be good for everybody, right?  Modern life and its office work and repetitive-task labor and lack of free time and play spaces and significantly reduced sleep and down time and and and...anyway.

So far so good, but a sad proportion of these people goes on to explain how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is actually just a response to modern life, an acquired syndrome.  Occasionally they'll confide that if people were just more disciplined they wouldn't have these impulse problems.

This is not true.

I spent a good portion of my childhood hurling myself over bushes, sliding down hills on concrete, jumping into impressive puddles and answering crucial science questions like "How many eggs can you smash on the sidewalk to see if they will fry before someone notices?*"

Another big chunk was dedicated to high-level tasks like decoratively furling the edges of every page in my reader, toe-tapping, surreptitiously tossing crumbs out the window to seagulls after lunch and answering crucial life skills questions like "What will happen if I borrow this camera and take thirty six moodily-lit photos of the toilet?**"

So despite the myriad opportunities for play and physical activity, I had plenty of energy for bad ideas.  (I also had ADHD klutziness despite lots of proprioceptive development.)  After awhile, it may not occur to you that the idea is bad, but you will know that not everyone acts like you do and that the weirdness is not really that positive.  Arguably, that is great impetus to control oneself, but the thing with ADHD is...you can't.  Not all the time, at least.

As an adult, this has some positive outcomes.  Like a lot of my fellow fidgeters, I am fast on the uptake and I work well on my feet.  So if the kids just aren't getting something, I can usually shift gears and attack the problem another way.  I also understand that certain classroom management strategies are not going to work, because I get that children want to do well and want adult affirmation and are not goofing off just to upset you.

On the negative side is dealing with the anti-drug anti-ADHD coalition.  After the people who don't believe in ADHD are the people who assume that those who are ADHD want everyone drugged (I don't; for the record, I was largely undrugged and while this had horrible consequences at times I also have a repetoire of coping strategies that is a huge bonus now).  Then there are The People Who Read This Story About Ritalin This One Time, who ask you obnoxious questions like if you use your medications to help maintain your weight.***

ANYWAYS.

The point here was originally to tell a story about a meeting I had to attend last week.  There were five people at this meeting and two are diagnosed ADHD.  During a presentation, a car alarm went off.

I don't know what you do when a car alarm goes off.  I, however, immediately tilt my head to the sound.  That provides me with new visual interest in the shape of a list of consequences developed by some older students sitting in the meeting room.   Man, that alarm is loud.  At some point, I remember that I am supposed to be listening, so I demand my brain to focus on the speaker.  "Don't listen to the alarm!" I tell myself.

Of course, the alarm becomes even louder.  Is it louder only in my head or everywhere?  I don't know.  I scan my fellow meeting-ers to see if they notice the alarm, under the theory that if it is actually getting louder they will be paying attention to it too.  My boot tie is lose.

At this point, the other ADHD person in the room told the presenter that neither she nor I had heard anything said since the car alarm had started.  She also tapped the table with her pen so that I turned my head back to the table and heard her comment, which was entirely true.

We know our kind, what can I say?  When understimulated, I will find something to occupy me.

Conveniently, Kindergarten is interesting enough, with enough going on and need for eyes on the back of my head that I can keep good focus.  And given a paper and a pen or some scissors I can get through any meeting (providing I can get up and walk around the room regularly) and even know what is happening.




*As many as are in the refrigerator.  You will get caught when you go ask the neighbor for some more  eggs.  However, the real trouble comes from the misuse of the water hose during the clean up process.
**You will teach Kindergarten.  Over the years, you will experience scientists in action inquiring into high-level issues like "What happens if I put all the red counting bears down the drain?" and "What is the best way to stick a paper towel to the bathroom ceiling?"
***I believe in obnoxiously answering these questions by saying things like "No, actually my medications can make me so thin that I can't shop anywhere but girl's department, am losing my hair and have serious anemia.  Thanks for asking."

19 February 2011

Favorite Craft Projects of Children

 Craft Projects Kids Lurve and Adults...Tolerate.
Fireworks.  Even though I have an amazing selection of glitter painters, chip glitter glue, a few glitter crayons and some glitter paint, there is apparently something deeply satisfying about this project. Anyway, each child needs
  • a large sheet of black construction paper
  • a bottle of white glue
  • glitter
  • optional pencil
Optionally, children may draw with a pencil on their paper first.  Whatever the case, the kids "draw" with the glue by squeezing with one hand.  This is important to emphasize, since two-handed approaches often lead to disaster.  Usually I suggest they focus on abstract designs, firework explosion stars and whatnot and I will write names in pencil using fancy lettering for them to glue-trace.  Once the glue is applied, children can liberally shake glitter all over the paper.  I shake the resulting work over the trash, the glitter adheres only to gluey sections and children are amazed.

Just Give Me Some Paper Already.  After ten years in the classroom, I have at long last discovered the "draw the top of a 2" method of heart cutting.  It helps for those children who really really really really want a perfect perfect perfect perfect heart.  For the other nineteen, explain that you don't have to pencil anything first!  Each child needs
  • small pieces of any paper
  • scissors, preferably ones that will indeed cut hair (the kids have more control over cutting with these).
Demonstrate the amazing property of symmetry and let them loose.  The kids will cut some pretty impressive things; one of my girls cut out a ringer for this jacket.

Kids will need some method of displaying their cutting prowess.  I have each child decorate a 12X15 envelope for their Valentines, which is an excellent canvas for their project.

Paper Plate Terraria/Aquaria/oh, just call it a Diorama.
We did these last year with blue cellophane and they were portholes into the deep ocean.  This year, we made snail terraria.  The snails were woodsies (not these awesome Woodsies I had as a kid, these, painted by the kids) with cut-up Silly Bandz tentacles and rhinestone eyespots.  The soil was dyed rock salt (the kids blended several colors to make brown soil, which they enjoyed greatly).  They also added foam lettuce stickers for food, collage leaves for coverage and flowers and plants of dyed macaroni.

All of this is glued to a paper plate, which is affixed to another paper plate that has its center circle cut out and replaced with cellophane, acetate or duralar, thereby serving as a porthole into the magical world below.

This week I also did pinch-tearing construction paper (see here) art with the kids.  Most of them were into it but a couple were not so much.  So I brought out the heavy artillery: KINDERGARTEN MUSEUM.  Specifically, I had each child title his or her artwork and wrote the title and the name of the artist on a label, which I affixed to a corner of the art.  Through this magical process, all projects are validated in some way that makes them more exciting.  Also the titles are often worthy of the finest cutting-edge works ("Two Robots Play a Game with the Little One's Head", "The Hopping House", "Ballerina Zoo", etc.).

My classroom craft projects tend to prioritize the materials I can get and the things I know how to do from my own childhood and adult crafting (for instance, I quill, so I have a set of plastic, child-safe slotted tools and needles).  Sometimes I am gifted materials that I haven't used and require experimentation.  For instance, I was given twenty sheets of shrink plastic and it's been sitting around for about a year.  So I brought it home this weekend for experimentation.  It is my intention to make this.

16 February 2011

Memo to Self

I have a field trip today that is a first-time event: it was arranged through the Nutrition Project and this is the first time they've sent a class to this site or even done this activity as an off-site event.  It involves taking my class on MUNI, and so that we can take one train rather than three buses, we are going to have a little walk.  It is raining at present and gusts are expected all day.

So given all of these factors, an extra-alert teacher would be something good to have.

I'll have to settle for a teacher who kept coming up with new plans in her sleep for making this trip go smoothly and finally gave up on the whole sleep thing at 3:45.

Oh well.  It will be excellent.  I have a full complement of adults - chaperones, Residents and SNCs coming with us.  The hour-by-hour weather report suggests that a picnic lunch on the way back will be a possibility, I have a toque for each child and the best field-trip pants ever.

Of my twenty four pockets, I plan to use:

  1. MUNI fare pocket.
  2. MUNI transfer pocket.
  3. Personal Clipper card and ID pocket.
  4. Mobile phone pocket.
  5. Emergency car sickness gum/lozenge pocket.
  6. Bandaid pocket.
  7. Hand wipe pocket.
  8. Additional badge pocket.
  9. Emergency non-MUNI money pocket.
  10. Keys pocket.
  11. Chapstick and cold medicine pocket.
That will leave me with a baker's dozen pockets before counting jacket pockets.  EXCELLENT.

I had twenty one students until December, when one moved across the Bay.  Two students moved over the break.  Two more moved out of state this month.  I am taking this personally.  Realistically, I know this is due to many factors for which I am not actually responsible, but I miss my students and I'm still taking it personally.  However, for my remaining sixteen it does mean lots of personal attention and some pretty cool projects, including COIL POTS.  COILING the POTS consumed a great deal of attention, far more than I thought it would, and left the kids tired out by the brain expenditure.

14 February 2011

Brief Flu Thoughts

  1. If Michelle Rhee doesn't want uppity bloggers casting aspersions on her students' results, maybe she shouldn't have offered so many contrary reports of same.
  2. And if she just now noticed those uppity bloggers, she really needs a better Google alert on her name.  I think the Daily Howler commented on the issue four or five years ago.
  3. We need to move away from the idea that diagnosis is in itself a negative.  Locally, maybe the move toward inclusion will do this.  But right now, we are ignoring students' needs in the name of not labeling learners.  Given the dark and racist history of SFUSD's special education referrals, it's an admirable impulse.  But some students have real needs.  These needs can often be ameliorated in the classroom, but they won't be if they aren't named and teachers aren't given support in doing so.
  4. For instance, I know some things about sensory processing issues.  I can generally offer support to students who need tactile feedback, proprioceptive development, etc.  But there is far more I don't know and therefore can't support.  When we can't assess students who are struggling for special needs, how can I serve those students well?
  5. In short: learning differences are differences, and differences are good.  Diversity makes us richer, not poorer.
  6. Ms. Rhee's Cult of the Teacher plays into this, too.  If the teacher is the driver of all student achievement or lack thereof, then he or she - if truly motivated - needs no support or guidance to reach all learners.  If he or she would just work harder, everything would be easier.
  7. Of course, the thoughts of anyone who duct-taped students' mouths closed on any issue in education should be taken with a veritable Bonneville of salt.
I am not at work today because I have the flu.  I am very thankful we celebrated Valentine's Day Friday because a rainy celebration day on my poor Resident Teacher would be a truly terrible thing.  Today is the first day I have been awake for more than three hours in a row since Friday afternoon.  This is a big achievement.

08 February 2011

Some things NEVER change.

Preparing for a $19 or a $330 cut per student in funding next year, SFUSD is as usual planning for massive teacher layoffs: 300 to 400, presumably with EduJobs and maybe with retirements counted in already.  This year, my school can actually anticipate more layoff letters; presuming the same plan as last year, the following will definitely be noticed:

  • all of 1st grade
  • 2/3 of 2nd grade
  • all of 3rd grade
  • 1/2 of 4th grade
  • all of 5th grade
with an additional four notices if they also send layoff letters to teachers with four years' seniority in SFUSD (in which case, they will notice all but three classroom teachers).

Undoubtedly there will be plenty of hand-wringing about how terrible it is that the Superintendent and BoE are required to utterly upend high-needs schools, but they're going to do it anyway and get hinky if anyone suggests that it's their fault.  It's that mean state!

So let me be the first to assure SFUSD that it is, ultimately, their decision.  Going "Beyond the Talk" is a radical action.  Inequitable layoffs are a status quo action.  You can't balance these things out.  Blaming union contracts, seniority, etc. doesn't exonerate you.  The shady self-dealing of the state GOP (I can balance the budget and increase school funding, leaving a three billion dollar reserve: bet you can too!) doesn't exonerate you.  We need to take responsibility for our actions.

I do think SFUSD has options other than massive layoffs that still allow them to sign off on a budget (although I am tired of hearing about STATE TAKEOVER from those who would lose their jobs in that case, gotta say!).  Some of them are straightforward: time to make some big cuts at the top at the Central Office.  Frankly, 25% paycuts to all EDs, Senior Directors and Superintendents of every ilk are not too much to demand.  Legal needs to cut down on its use of the unrestricted General Fund, and like the Special Ed redesign, should be forced to account for its legal decisions (SFUSD: Fighting Every Access Ramp Since 1901).  I recognize that Legal is used to being the end all on all law, but I must note that their opinion is just that.  (FYI, Legal?  Your opinion on layoffs and equity?  LAUSD settled.  Because they were going to lose ugly.)

In other news:

  • I have an offsite PD thingamajig today, which means that I cannot walk to work and must get on the bus.  BOO.
  • As of yesterday afternoon, I was 40% to filling a Donors Choose grant to get a big big fan and a space heater for my classroom.  We have already lost heat twice this year, and 40s classrooms with full-wall window exposures need the heavy artillery in air circulation technology.  Of course, going Beyond the Talk might be construed to mean the District should undertake liveability issues, but I still have lead pipes in my classroom so I suppose not.

03 February 2011

Arts and Crafts Things Kids Like and Adults Lurve

  1. Child Mondrian.  Just as a term, "neo-plasticism" seems very evocative of our mountainous piles of disposable geegaws, no?  Anyway, letting the kids loose with thin strips of black matte paper, white paper, tempera in the primary colors and q-tips or brushes make for a cool project.  It goes nicely with a unit on primary colors and hue.
  2. Child Pollock.  A very nice project for the end of the year: make sure to recommend that children wear clothes that can get dirty.  All you need is a big space, an old bedsheet and a mess of brushes and paint.  Kids enjoy seeing the impact different movements and distances.  You can read Action Jackson in advance, too.
  3. Paper Plate Aquaria/Terraria.  Bonus points for using blue cellophane on aquaria.
There are also plenty of projects that kids love and adults can take or leave.  These can be very fun; I need to make a list of some of the ones that have gone really well so I can get the materials to do them again.

Something else that is very fun is showing fifteen minutes of The Muppet Show as a five day of excellence whole class reward.  I provided fifteen minutes of the Harry Belafonte episode (because the performance of "Turn the World Around" is going to be EPIC and I am experimenting with using Mr. Belafonte as our lead-in to some of our social studies unit (working together, social change, all that)).  When we got to the outside door, I invoked my magical teacher skills to turn them all into Animal having a drum off with Harry Belafonte.  So they ran out the door beating frenetically on imaginary drums while screaming.  From my perspective it was kind of awesome.  That perspective would be "waving from the door".

Tet and Furlough

The Tet and furlough weekend is nice for many families, but I need to get into the shower pretty fast here because I am babysitting a kid at my school whose family was out of options for childcare today.  These weird weeks are hard on families...not to mention my pocketbook, since Friday funday is also Friday nopay for me.

I got a chance to look at the District's new plans for middle schools and bus routes.  I admit that I am irritated that there's evidently money for a 7th period at middle schools but not enough for lowering class sizes at the highest-need non-QEIA schools.  (Same funding source?  Probably not.  In favor of a 7th period?  Oh yeah.  Piqued anyway because I think 14:1 would make the biggest impact on student achievement and it isn't that pricey?  Yep.)

The middle school plan is...not my cup of tea.  I am not clear how it creates more equity and I don't think it's intended to do so.  I'm curious about the projections the bus plan used, but it I like better.

We had two tours this week, which makes for maybe ten or twelve this year.  That's a lot more than last year (two or three) or any year before (zero).  People liked what they saw, although their surprise at seeing it is always a little trying.