I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

31 March 2011

Let's remember the Late Layoff Window.

The whole 15 March/15 May layoff thing is not entirely true, you know.  I mean, it makes its appearance in  every story about the catastrophic budget cuts awaiting us (possibly $1000 per pupil now).  But that doesn't make it true.

The Ed Code (44955.5) allows late layoffs within five days' of the state's budget being passed and 15 August...if per-pupil funding doesn't get at least a 2% increase (or, as I like to call it, "annually").

I don't know what exactly they mean by "state's budget".  Does that mean a complete budget, balanced and everything?  Or would the half-budget we have now suffice?  If the state has to have a complete and total budget, I think we can assume that it would be hard-pressed to have one by 15 August.

Still, this is a real possibility.  This 2009 Chronicle blog post reports that the late window may have never been used, but I think that's out of date now (I'm pretty sure they were used later that year.  Last year the budget was so late I don't think the window opened).

And given just how bad things are going to be, barring amazing budget dodges - maybe some of Speaker Perez's plans will be easier to enact since the budget only needs a majority vote this year - I think we better not assume there will be no late window RIFs.

...Or for that matter, late resignations.  I don't care what happens in November locally or statewide to provide school funding: we have almost three months of school year before then to suffer through.  And it will be suffering.  High needs schools, as always, will get the worst of it: more teacher layoffs, no cash-rich PTA to spackle over the gaping holes, more students feeling the outside-the-classroom impacts of the massive safety net cuts (you go to work with an infected abscess in your mouth and see how well you do, now that we've cut dental benefits for poor children) on the state level.

And we can look forward to federal cuts, too.  Nothing like a little starvation to ensure bad learning outcomes, and the food stamp cuts the Rethuglican* Congress is proposing will make malnutrition easier.

Given that, who wants to teach?  There is a huge emotional component to the work, but it shouldn't be ministering.  The situation we are in makes it missionary work, not education.  Teachers have lives outside the classroom; while their students so desperately need their emotional energy they have less left for their families and friends.  That's unfair to everyone and unsustainable for educators.

I have a science proposal on Donors Choose that is about to expire not fully funded.  I think I had better start writing some for pencils, socks and toothbrushes so I'm ready for when it does.

*Seriously.  If you do bad things to the neediest people - and unambiguously, that Congress does - you are a thug.  I am tired of civil behavior glossing over the real, brutal impacts of the budget cuts being demanded for economically imaginary reasons.

30 March 2011

Hey, I Was Right!

One of my little extra "for the good of the community" jobs is keeping people posted on the state budget.

A couple of weeks ago, I added an update to the staff lounge posting that delineated GOP demands for a special election.  I included the line item "ponies for all!".

Two days later I crossed out "ponies" and wrote in "unicorns".

The next day I changed that to "pegasi".

It ends up that was hyperbole: all they really wanted was ponies (at least, that's what Steinberg told the Chronicle.

So now it's budget apocalypse, since the Speaker's "MAJORITY VOTE NOW" plan seems to be going the same way as the Speaker's budget proposal did last year.  I'm hoping for some good gimmicks, and for SFUSD to take more cut at the 555 Franklin and drop less upon their school sites, but I am not hopeful for either.

What I can take away from this:

  • Rich People before Everyone Else, says the Republicans.
  • Jerry Brown: no better than before.
  • SFUSD: in possession of at least two more years of state-blaming.
  • My School: 50% of the classroom staff is getting laid off.
  • Equity: a greeting card sentiment.

29 March 2011

Ongoing Teaching Fascinations

One of the things that I want my students to find interesting and enjoy is coloring neatly.  Mind you, I didn't say coloring within the lines or coloring true to life.  When we go over what it means to do a nice job coloring, these ideas generally come up in the brainstorming.  The former I nix entirely; it may be that exciting coloring requires outside the line work.  As to the latter, if I want true to life coloring it's part of the directions.  (In science, for instance if we call it a "diagram" or a "science sketch" part of that is coloring the way you see it.  And certain portraiture projects involve accurate coloring.)

In my Kindergarten, neat coloring means:
  • controlled strokes (long or short as needed, but not with total abandon)
  • a legitimate attempt to color all colorable areas (leaving stuff uncolored is okay if you have a reason for it) in a picture
  • prioritizing completeness of one picture rather than finishing (say, if they're coloring a take home reader)
  • using multiple colors (at least three)
Later in the year, we add experimenting with shade and coloring more lightly/more heavily.

To assist students in this, I try to provide the best coloring tool for the job.  But I have spent some time working on finding a tool that is manageable and high-interest (if the tool is manageable, I will provide it more often; if it is high-interest, the kids spend more time with it).

For the edification of equally minutiae-minded people, here's what I've learned.

Big Crayons
Pros: Available in a wide array of colors.  Some students find thicker items easier to grasp.  Students generally color more heavily.  Very nice for crayon shaving/crayon melting projects.
Cons: Boring.  Many students associate big crayons with "preschool babies" and similar and want thinner ones.
Use: Out and always available.

Regular Crayons
Pros: Available in a huge array of colors.  Some students find thinner items easier to grasp and like using "big kid" supplies.  Very nice for shade and tone studies.  Children are more likely to use a tripod grasp when using these.
Cons: Requires training around "Why it is not a big deal when crayons break but we shouldn't break them on purpose".  Kids get bored.
Use: Out and always available.

Oil Pastels
Pros: Color well on black.  Smudging allows interesting color effects.
Cons: Messy.  Finished works need to be sprayed with fixative.
Use: Restricted to certain art projects.

Glitter Crayons
Pros: Thinner, therefore "big kid" supplies.  These inspire heavy coloring since the more you color over something, the more glittery it gets.  High novelty factor.  Finished works have a nice shimmer.  The glitter embeds itself nicely and doesn't get all over everything.
Cons: I haven't found these in assortments larger than 16 colors.  These are expensive (~$2.50/box), so we don't have enough for the whole class to use at once.  This can cause interpersonal drama.  Not that easy to find unless I am willing to pay shipping (I just bought the last three boxes at Flax, for instance).
Use: I toss a few of these in every crayon tray and require that they stay where placed unless borrowed through a conversational exchange (no snatching) and returned.

Thick Markers
Pros: Exciting for children.  The marker stands inspire sharing, teach the art of "cap until it clicks" and reinforce rainbow color order.
Cons: Leak through paper.  Hard to do color mixing.
Use: Restricted to large projects.

Thin Markers
Pros: Exciting for children.  Small tip enables detail work.  Do not leak through paper as badly as thick markers.
Cons: Not the best tool when there is not ample time for coloring, since kids will use these for a long time.  Hard to do color mixing (although nice for design work using darker colors on lighter colors).  I don't have marker stands for thin markers and the click of the well-placed cap is not as audible, so there is loss to drying out.
Use: Generally available by request.  (They have to ask but the answer is usually yes.)  We keep fresh roll trays around for sharing these out.

Gel F(x) Markers
Pros: Nice on black paper.  Interesting "fade in" effect that is fun to watch.
Cons: Run out very quickly.  Color mixing is not really possible.  I have only found these in thick sizes, so they don't lend themselves well to detail work.  Expensive; I got a class pack from DonorsChoose but I wouldn't spend the $70 replacing it.
Use: Restricted to black-paper projects as a special treat.

Mr. Sketch Scented Stix
Pros: Between the scent and the tiny tips, kids will color with these in great detail.  Inspire sharing.  Appear to last for a very long time; caps go on securely without a lot of effort.  The scents apparently last a long time (the kids will sniff their work for days afterward and claim they still smell the pens; I haven't tried this).
Cons: Leak through paper more than other thin markers.  Require teaching "How to Share the Scent of a Marker" lessons before someone takes an inadvertent pen to the nostril.  Not the best tool for projects with a short timeline - left to their own devices, some kids will spend 90 minutes with these.  I personally loathe the smell of almost all of these.  Expensive; I got a class pack from DonorsChoose but would not really want to spend $80 to get another one.

Colored Pencils
Pros: Excellent for reinforcing tripod grasp.  Allow blending and shading.  Available in a wide array of colors.  Kids will use these with good enjoyment.
Cons: The great art of sharpening is seductive.  In any colored pencil project, two to three children will want to spend all of their time sharpening until the points are extra sharp.  It may also be necessary to see what will happen if the other end gets sharpened (answer: nothing.  I have better things to get grumpy about).  Pencil sharpeners are not first-day-of-school tools in my classroom and I find colored pencils do not sharpen well in an electric sharpener, so these require a lot of work for me.
Use: Go-to tool when true to life coloring is required or thin markers are not available/suitable.  Otherwise they're available by request, but requests are pretty rare.

27 March 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Irritating

  • Going to the "Balenciaga and Spain" exhibit this week with another stylish Kindergarten teacher.
  • Jeremy's Sweeps sale brought this Armani salvage dress I'd been admiring since November to my home.  It's a little big, which makes it just right for Kindergarten wearing.
  • On break!  I'm going in one day to work and feed the snails and once to feed the snails and that's it.
  • At long last, I am clearing my closet and divvying up the rejects.
  • It seems reasonably likely that I will get another Resident Teacher next year.  I really think it's a neat program for teacher training and I love having a second adult in my room all the time.
  • Still at 7 of 15 classroom teachers laid off.
  • What with the state budget and the all-talk-and-hand-wringing attitude toward equity in SFUSD, it's hard to imagine that changing.
  • Because I got very sick and actually had to leave school to go to the doctor, I still have two conferences to do.
  • I read my District email and in my SFUSD News Blast there were some platitudinous, Hallmarky sentiments from our Superintendent.  These were along the lines of "Even though we laid off half your staff and told you to come up with a budget that provides a generous twelve cents a child, y'all need to focus on meeting our goals of access, achievement and accountability.  It is just not Beyond the Talk to talk about all the stuff you're cutting and all your colleagues who are leaving."
...which, you know, is a lot easier a sentiment to talk about than to have, and one easier to have if you're not actually laid off and, frankly, make more than four of those laid off teachers do combined yet have taken no pay cut beyond furlough days.  It's also easier to stand up for those important values if I will be doing all the actual standing while you blame the state funding situation.  And it's a whole lot easier not to think about the people who might not be there if they don't comprise half the teaching staff of your site.
  • I filled out my survey about the 4 March PD.  Even though my actual name is on it, I tried to be honest, although I ended up putting in a lot of "don't knows".  (Also, the questions were kind of...I dunno, they were more about "Do you understand that we are doing inclusion and you better like it" than "Was the presenter good?  Do you feel we are ready for the important work of moving toward a services model?  What do you need to be ready for that model?" Of course, maybe these questions are only of primary importance to K-6-9 teachers this year.)  
  • Since I read the big report when it was released, I did not learn a lot of new facts.  Since someone at my school sits on the committee for this redesign, I generally can have all my questions answered right away.  Yet I have no idea how this will work out next year, and the parking lot questions I submitted have not been answered.
...this worries me because I am getting the feeling that, barring an incredible amount of work over the summer, the rollout is going to be pretty atrocious.  Again, it's easy to have a plan for an overdue redesign and it's a lot harder to live out that plan, particularly in a budget scenario like the one we've got.

I may be feeling this especially hard this week because I have had a lot of interaction with various service providers over the last couple of months.  Some have been awesome.  For instance, I filed a PT screen and heard from the screener the day she received it.  The screener also said she'd be happy to provide suggestions on activities and/or modifications in general: YAY!  Some have been teeth-grinding.  I feel like SFUSD's over-identification of poor children of color has among some providers led to a refusal to do any screening of poor children of color, even when a room full of professionals and the child's parents agree that despite the child's remarkable gifts, we are struggling to provide the experiences that will allow the child to learn.  I still think that screening - or just observing and providing suggestions - would cut down on over-identification while helping all children excel.  Yet more than once I've had the experience of asking for advice/observation and being given the strong sense that asking for help means that I am abdicating my responsibility for going Beyond the Talk.

And I'm not alone in that sense.  The attitude that educators are getting is toxic.  It inspires educators to avoid asking for help.  The children struggle, the educators struggle.  No one is happy.  No one is supported.

...and don't even get me started on RtI.  I am of the strong opinion (it's the ADHD) that little modifications should be widely available to all people, and that children benefit from knowing when they need a fidget/a deep breath or that they need a pencil grip/noise-canceling headphones to succeed.  So the idea of RtI seems great.  But a lot of RtI actually requires supplies, and while I did sew my own weighted stuffed animals and bought my own special pencils and HWT magna boards, I can't spend all of my money this way.  (It cuts down on my New York vacation pin money, and quite honestly a little souvenir from the Met isn't going to cut it.  I'm thinking dress.)

Mathy/ELD Craft Project

The Week is a Cycle and So Is a Necklace Necklaces
You will need:
  • pipe cleaners, cut in thirds (approximately 60)
  • hole punches
  • 2"x3" rectangular tags (construction paper, card stock or tag board) in five colors, one of each per necklace*
  • 3" diameter circles (same) in two colors, one of each per necklace*
  • 4" x 1/2" rectangular tags (same), one per necklace*
Preparatory Work:
  • Write the days of the weeks on the tags, using a color for each day and the circles for the weekend days.
  • Write "Days of the Week" on the long, thin tag.
  • If you do not have multiple hole punches, punch holes in each tag: one on each end.  Otherwise have the kids do this - it's good eye training and motor development.  And they looooooooove it.
  • You may find that pre-bagging a set of materials for each child is worthwhile - or at least pre-bagging the tags.
  • Decide in advance if the week starts with Monday or Sunday.  Sunday is traditional.  If you can't decide skip the "days of the week" long tag.
Objectives: Students will order the days of the week, recognize that the week is a regular unit of time that repeats and is comprised of seven days and identify the weekend days (vs. weekdays).  Students will practice using the time concepts before and after to organize days of the week.  Students will use fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination to manipulate supplies.
Potential Sentence Frames:
------day comes before ------day.
------day comes after -------day.
------day is a weekday/weekend day.
------day and -----day are weekdays.
Saturday and Sunday are the weekend.

What with all that, the project is pretty self-explanatory: the kids end up with necklaces that show the days of the week in order and demonstrate that the week happens over and over again.  While making the necklaces, you can practice word recognition and chunking words.

You will want to make sure that the pipe cleaners (I'm just too old to switch over to "chenille stems", I'm afraid) are not twisted to close, since this leaves poky ends.  Rather, after the kids form a loop they should wrap the ends over it.

You can also have the kids join each day with two links (rather than looping two on one pipe cleaner link); this makes for a longer necklace that I suspect is also longer-lasting; however, we were on the dregs of the pipe cleaners.

This can be done with any ordered, cyclic event.  Necklaces or bracelets are good for cycles since their shape is cyclic.  We've also done water cycle bracelets this year, using colored pony beads for each step (an excellent retelling device and it reinforces how you can start anywhere in a cycle).

We are moving toward a more Balanced Literacy/Teachers College writing program, and at Kindergarten we felt like doing that would require that students really, really get time and time concepts. So we've been getting pretty detailed on that: identifying and ordering the days of the week and also understanding that weeks make up months make up years are made of days are made of hours, etc.

In other crafty news, I have decided against doing strawberry basket + ribbon woven baskets with telephone wire handles full of paper flowers for Mothers' Day.  This is because we get out of school so early and we have the massive Paper People Autobiography project AND the maracas and tambourines to get done for the Promotion.  I think I will have the kids do the card with the pop-up hand holding flowers.

*Really, you could use whatever you wanted providing you can write on it.  A retiring teacher gave me a bag of precut heavyweight astrobrights matching these measurements, and I wanted to use it up.  Fancy people might want to go in rainbow order - use indigo and perhaps white for the long tag.

26 March 2011

Who Are These People, Anyway?

Cobb: Dr. William Cobb was the first African American principal in SFUSD (so no, the school's not named for the roller coaster guy).

Lilienthal: Claire Lilienthal was on the BoE and was a civil rights activist.

Serra, Milk, Carmichael, Carver, Chavez, Malcolm X, Moscone, Drew...everybody knows these, right?

Frank McCoppin and ER Taylor were Mayors of San Francisco.

McLaren CDC is named for the Park Superintendent.  He also designed Lithia Park in Ashland, one of my favorite non-Shakespeare, anti-bipolar parks in all the land.

John Yehall Chin was an educator.

Gordon J. Lau was the first Chinese American elected to the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco.  He was part of the Milk/Silver/Moscone progressive government contingent.

This is kind of neat.

24 March 2011

Memo to Self

Those who brag about their lifelong apparent natural immunity to conjunctivitis are tempting fate.

There are worse things than pink eye.  One of them will get you.

cc: Knockers on Wood, Anti-Jinxers and Similar

Edited to Add: Also worth remembering: dragging out the finest pieces one's closet has to offer will make days of mysterious, vertigo-inducing illness much more manageable.  How can anything go wrong when one is wearing the best thrift store find known to humankind?*

Black sheath dress, Givenchy, McQueen era.  A little too big, but can you beat that?  Hmm?  No, I think you cannot.  I really ought to sell it, but then what would I wear on such days?

22 March 2011

Enrollment Rolls Along

Not Confidential to Australians searching for "Trouble Gum" rodents: the animals in "Trouble Gum" are pigs.  Adjust your search accordingly.

We had some people come by to register yesterday: always nice.  I figure the people registering on the Monday after letters go out will probably be sticking around for August.

We also had a number of people stop by to tour.  I presume these people did not list our school and received it as their closest school with space.  Our school is cute (new mosaic going up and everything) and has cute kids, so I think we show well.  Besides, I'm pretty proud of our Kindergarten program, even its lazy, no-egg snails, and I like people coming to see it.

Occasionally we get a visitor whose smile is so fixed and body is so tense that I'm not sure why they bothered coming by.  After all, school sites are not EPC.  Indeed, your average school site's staff's heads are appreciably dented from run-ins with EPC.  It's not really in a school's interest to enroll a lot of people who don't want to be there.  And it's a lot of energy to try to convince people otherwise - energy I'd rather invest in the families who are enrolled.

The whole "hidden gem" thing kind of freaks me out.  It seems to suggest riches courtesy the PTA, and when you've spent the weekend laughing ruefully over the $250 teacher tax deduction for materials vs. the $2500 you spent last year, riches sound good.  There's something wrong with the notion that a school necessarily needs to be "fixed", though - like that it was broken in the first place.

Me, I think it's value systems and society that are broken.  The strongest correlation to test scores is class, after all.  "Low-performing" schools are usually high-poverty.  The number of children living in poverty in the United States is revolting, and the impacts of that poverty - long-term malnutrition, poverty-related health problems, environmental poisoning, unstable neighborhoods, early death - will be with those children (and all of us) for years to come.

Let's be clear: schools are badly funded.  Even in California, we're not being defunded as much as same-olded, with extra vigor, as this School Finance 101 piece shows.

I'm really not feeling the canard that those high-poverty schools are rolling in money, either.  There's this new idea being sold locally that the existence of some SIG schools (which are exceptionally well-funded right now, courtesy the federal government) means all high-poverty schools are having Bring Your Own Bathing Suit to Scrooge McDuck's Vault parties.  People who believe that should really do my taxes.

High-needs schools are low-seniority, and low-seniority schools are losing money on the average teacher salary formula SFUSD uses.  They may also receive funding for certain needs - for a counselor or a nutrition program - that would benefit all schools but are absolutely necessary at poor ones.

I don't know.  I prefer desegregated, diverse schools.  I'd love to have a big cash base underwriting Kindergarten arts and sciences.  I don't think we can get those without a real discussion about what we want children to know and be able to do, why we tolerate massive poverty and school underfunding, and how race and class privilege affect both how we understand the issues and what we want for ourselves and our own children.

I wonder what the locus of "unacceptability" is.  I suppose it's variable; for this family it's test scores and for this one it's diversity (or lack thereof).  I think that it would be possible to pull out a definition, and once you have that, you can talk about conceptions, assumptions and beliefs.  I don't think we're very good at having hard conversations though.

20 March 2011

Crafty Plans

We only have a week before spring break, so I don't want to start any major projects (specifically, the self portrait project).  I need to decide what to do, though - the shorter day during conferences week cuts down on the arts and crafts.  So the kids miss out.  When I pulled out the stinky markers and the fruit stickers to decorate some flyers on Friday they went into spasms of delight.  This is sort of depressing, really: I mean, I want them to be excited but I couldn't help but feel they had been deprived beforehand.

I'm learning toward doing tertiary color blending using cellophane and high-end self-laminate (the kind that is truly clear, not vaguely frosted).  We could also do Child Mondrian this week; we are moving into measurement in math and working with lines is a neat way to use some of those measurement words (heavier, longer, thicker, and so on).  Or we could continue with the Resident's TE and do some puppetry around her reading comprehension project.

Last week the kids finished their paper dolls - the holding hands kind.  They decorate the one in the middle to look like them and then decorate the other two (they are in threes) to look like two of their friends.  This culminates an ELD/MELD/Social Studies unit.  They get to use paper crafting for the hair (pinch-tearing and quilling) and various cool papers for clothing (this year, I had "kente" paper, glitter paper and glasscrafting paper available).  These are all hanging up holding hands in a giant circle.  A few kids chose to make me one of their friends, I think because my hair offered exciting choices in color work and styling technique.

In other news, I got two new students and now have 18 again.  This makes me happy.  Having a small class is really quite nice - 21 to 16 makes a huge difference in what we do - but also a downer since we all miss the kids who are gone.

One of the kids in my class got hit by a jump rope handle in the after school program.  That child's conference was at the same time, so they brought the kid to my room.  My student wanted me to tell all the kids about the injury (which was minor but bloody).  So I told them that the child had fought a monster, which whipped out with its whippy, spiked tail and hit the child's mouth.  The other kids were extremely impressed.

When the kids have bananas in the school lunch, we have them strip the peels right away so we can compost them for them (it cuts down on the end of lunch to recess transition hysteria, which is bad enough with the milk pouring and the difficulty the kids have in managing all the stuff they have to carry).  We refer to this as getting the bananas out of their pajamas.  So when I came across some stickers with bananas WEARING CLOTHES I had to get those.  We have the best stickers.  I try to buy some for each child's interest: I got puffy robots because I have two children who looooove robots, for instance.  The extrinsic/intrinsic issue is not a big deal; they get stickers when I feel like it and don't generally ask for them (answer: "No.").  Moreover, I have hate for sticker swap city and that tends to lead to children immediately backpacking stickers anyway.

19 March 2011

A quick scan at the numbers

...suggests that I won't have to worry too much about reading people ripping on my school (about which they know nothing).  SFUSD has some enrollment statistics out, and I'm going to guess based on my read of these that the people who will not be happy to have been assigned our school are not also the kind of people to complain about same on the internet.

If the offers match the population we enroll, our school will remain fairly diverse but continue in its general direction (more Latino and Asian children, fewer African American children).  (Our school has been diverse but in flux for a number of years, and diversity should be understood to mean "few if any white children".)

In this we are not common, and I will be interested to see what the new assignment system does for district-wide school diversity.  There are some stunning numbers in the data release - 78% of offers at Grattan, for instance, are to white children.  (This would tend to suggest that the idea that the nefarious and secret discriminatory quota policies of SFUSD will finally die, but I both digress and doubt it.)

In other news, I think we must have won the Layoff Sweepstakes but SFUSD doesn't seem as inclined to let us have the data on that this year.  (Perhaps because we disseminated it so widely.  You should've seen Eric Mar!  I thought his eyes would pop out of his head.)  In between noting that there are solutions to inequitable layoffs that don't involve overturning unions or turning to education deform, I managed to get my crafty layoff posters up this week.  So now we turn up the noise.

I mean, like to 11.  That's the problem with laying off all the young things: they can still organize and get loud AND show up to teach tomorrow.

Simply, SFUSD cannot claim to be going "Beyond the Talk" if they are willing to lay off nearly half of our staff.  How many elementary classroom teachers got pink-slipped?  Less than fifty.  There are what, eighty elementary schools in the District?  And my school gets seven of those?  It's not about seniority: it's about equal opportunity.

The district's courage should not rest entirely in its southeast side teachers - but it does.  Their annual reward for doing a job that the state refuses to fund and the district refuses to value is a pink slip.  What does that say about access and equity?  Given SFUSD's long history of failing poor children of color, there is a pressing need to build relationships and trust.  Boo-hoo-hooing about seniority and legal requirements is fine - but you can't also pretend that you aim to build that trust.

Hence: 11.  Or louder.

12 March 2011

So, Those Administrators Got Their Contracts Yet?

Teacher layoff notices went out.  At least 40% of our staff is getting noticed.

I'll go ahead and predict that will put us toward the top of the list of most heavily affected schools.

I'll go one step further and predict that all of those top schools will be located on the southeast side.

It's not even a step to predict that those top southeast side schools would all qualify as "high needs".

Of course, this has no implication for equity and equal opportunity AT ALL.

And by making this an annual course of action, SFUSD does not in any way question its real commitment to radical, "Beyond the Talk" change.

...oh wait.  No, it actually IS inequitable and worsens the systemic problem of high teacher turnover at high needs schools.  And again, we receive annual proof that when it comes to the real tough decisions - the kind that take more than a press release and are unlikely to provide awards to Superintendents - are so far Beyond the Talk that we can't even talk about them (SFUSD Legal said so!  And they've never been wrong, nor has any other lawyer or court ever disagreed...which is why we don't actually need a judicial system.).

I haven't personally received a letter (or communication from the union, which is typically what I get first - I haven't actually picked up or signed for a layoff letter in the last couple of years.  I leave them at the post office to rot sullenly in a miasma of wasted certificated mail fees).  Looking at the numbers, I have to figure I finally have enough seniority to not get laid off until the 60 day window (hee hee).  Of course, if I'm not getting one, then I need devote less time to personal worry and more time to raising Cain for those committed to equity administrators leading our District in these sad times.

In other news, I have created a monster.  I have a student whose name has the same letter twice in order.  One day that kid spelled it with three of the letter and I commented on that, which the child found hilarious.  The student now always spells the name with five of the letter.  We occasionally pronounce it accordingly.   Now that kid's best friend's name, which has its own doubled letter, is growing exponentially too.

We are big into fish printing right now.  The girls who are in after school are mad at me presently.  They snuck away from the program and came in the room to find me testing out a craft project.  Sneaking away from after school to explore The School By Late Afternoon is not allowed, so I sent them out, thereby selfishly hoarding all the good toys and games for myself.  As they see it.

I have an official request to make west African-inspired masks to go with the maracas and tambourines that will accompany our promotion performance.  I need to think on this one for a little bit.

11 March 2011

Your White Privilege is Showing.


Prioritizing the desires of the most powerful stakeholders will never make for a progressive argument.

Repeat: never.

I am tired of hearing about FAMILIES FLEEING THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS and how we need to get them back.  Even if those WEALTHY WHITE FAMILIES FLEEING THE DIRTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS came back to those schools, they have no history of advocating for any group other than themselves.

Aaaaaaaaaand they do that enough already.

The progressive argument is for building strong and well-funded schools serving the families already there. The progressive argument does not fantasize about how meeting poor children will be good for rich ones.  The poor are not there for your edification.  The progressive argument agrees that diversity is an important social value for all, but doesn't put the onus on achieving it on the oppressed.

Oh, and the progressive argument definitely doesn't fail to notice the block-by-block segregation that characterizes our city.  The neighborhood school proposal ensures that those WEALTHY WHITE FAMILIES will attend school with their fellow pale moneyed.

In closing: if there is a progressive argument for neighborhood schools, BeyondChron didn't make it.  They do provide an excellent example of San Francisco progressive politics at their worst: willfully blind to privilege.

10 March 2011

Your Fat Cat Public Schools

Among the services cut for the year: hot breakfast.  During Hot Breakfast Month (February), we served 0 hot breakfasts.  Student Nutrition Services can't afford them anymore this year.

For me personally, this is great: I can't stand the smell of sausage.  For my students, particularly those for whom food insecurity is an issue, this is not so great.  As a statement of societal priorities: tax cuts before kids eat well! - it is moral bankruptcy.

05 March 2011

At long last, with uncertain trust

Someone in my old school district told me one time that the reason we had a lot of mainstreaming and inclusion practices was that we couldn't afford anything else.  Whether that's true or not, we did have a lot of inclusion practices and they were relatively well-designed.

So coming to SFUSD was a bit of a shock, and not a welcome one.  Now that the district is moving away from its segregated LREs, though...well, I have seen enough of zones and strategic plans and whatnot to be more than a little nervous about what this will look like in practice.

For instance: other than Guided Reading, we're still going very slooooowly toward RtI.  This is unfortunate, because I think we could designate far fewer children, period, if we had more training and more materials for making small, enormously effective adjustments in the mainstream classroom.  Especially the early primary classroom.  I still hate to get involved in the child-labeling process, but it is presently the only way to get a child who needs services services.

My experience of asking for assistance - you know, like requesting a specialist observe your classroom and then give you feedback on strategies to assist children with whom you are struggling - has been really negative.  Either you're turned down flat because the child is not designated or they turn you down while hinting laboriously that you suck because otherwise you wouldn't be having any problems teaching everyone everyday always.  I have been lucky to meet specialists who are willing to "volunteer" or otherwise sneak into my classroom to help, but that's what they're doing: sneaking.

So this is the way I think SFUSD should go, but man is it hard to believe the transition will be anything but horrendous.  For instance, SFUSD will know what schools can anticipate K inclusion students pretty soon.

In my old district, rising K inclusion students were identified.  A school with personnel who would be open to serving that child was contacted, and its principal would follow up with the K teacher who he or she felt would be best suited to that child's needs.  When this was me, I would start attending IEP meetings at the preschool site.  The child and his or her parents would visit the Kindergarten at least once, and before summer vacation, there would be a plan in place with specific modifications to ease that child's transitions.  I was able to request and receive observations from specialists serving this child to make recommendations.  And I knew which first grade that child would enter with a couple of months' advance so that teacher could attend meetings, meet the family and plan.

I'm sure that there were horrible experiences for families in this process, but in my experience it went well - and it was totally guided by preparation and development.

It is my hope SFUSD will do something similar; it is my fear that they won't.

03 March 2011

What with the space heater oscillating luscious air, the organic and delicious diet from the school garden, a soothing playlist of international love songs and some delightful egg shells, the snails finally started to ENGAGE IN THE LIFE CYCLE ALREADY.

Alas, they decided to engage in it at the time when the recess assistants and I were cleaning the terrarium.  On the plus side, this made for some excellent science lessons and we got to show our buddy class next door (they are also raising snails and we do silkworms together, too).

On the downside, I am afraid we interrupted the process so badly that we will not get eggs in a few weeks and our snails remain prudish.

Also on the upside though, I have now gotten every kid in the class to decide to hold a snail.  And the one with the broken shell has eaten a mess of chalk and eggshell, leading to shell patches.