I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

30 May 2011

And that's that.

I am checked out of my classroom (after an all-day Sunday adventure in stuff-moving, stuff-cleaning and stuff-trashing)!  I swear, next year I'm showing a video on the last day of school, not doing Child Pollock and other fun stuff.

...That said, for unknown reasons, we had several parents tour this week.  Early in the week, my classroom had Paper People remnants and various art activities out.  Not to mention an enormous coop of chickens.  By the last drop by, two hours before school got out for the year, it was a disaster zone of take-home backpacks, tear-downs, and craft explosions.  And an enormous coop of chickens.  I had paint in my hair from the action painting, so you can imagine what the kids looked like.  I do not think this makes a good impression, but really: on the last day of school, maybe don't tour.

At 4:30 on Friday, all 6 remaining pink slips at my site were rescinded!

I remembered to pass out everything I needed to and give away things I wanted to get rid of (like Moon Sand, the world's messiest substance.  That stuff leaves glitter in...well, in the dust.)!

I adopted out all my chicks!

I restrained myself from accepting an offer to raise my pet chicken Egghead for my retrieval in August!

I am registered for the Special Education PD in August!  (This means I'm skipping my site PD, and man, am I so happy about that.  Not that I'm tired with my site, just that what with the high-needs school endless teacher churn it ends up being more or less the same PD over and over and over and over and over and over and...well, I have ADHD.)

I am taking an Adderall Holiday!  Providing I survive the Doom Sleepy, that is.

I am leaving for New York tomorrow!

In other news, I got a couple of really nice letters from parents and/or students.  I made plans with my Resident to do a massive classroom purge next week.  This will mean that all the shelf-papering I did is for naught, but will mean I have more space to store stuff.

I have five active projects up at Donors Choose and a sixth (about the Science of Jackson Pollock) in progress.  I am thinking about linking them here, although that would be the end of my "anonymity".

I had some awesome conversations the last week of school.

CHILD (to child): You're evil.
"EVIL" CHILD: HA HA.  Yes, I am.
E. Rat: No.  Let's not call each other 'evil'.
"EVIL" CHILD: But I AM evil.  Listen: (laughs maniacally).
CHILD: What does 'evil' mean?
NEW CHILD: Devils are evil.
E. Rat: Um.  Well, I guess evil means that you do bad things that hurt others...
CHILD: So it means bad?
NEW CHILD: Devils are bad.
E. Rat: Yes, but also that you do bad things because they are bad and you want to hurt others, and that makes you happy. (Resolves to check a dictionary later).  So calling someone evil is serious.
"EVIL" CHILD: That's why they laugh like this (laughs maniacally).
ADDITIONAL CHILD: But what about the minions?
E. Rat: What?
ADDITIONAL CHILD: The MINIONS!  Are they evil, too?
ANOTHER CHILD: Can YOU do an evil laugh?

...this went on for awhile.  I recounted this to someone later and that person suggested that the idea of "minions" might come from a movie.  I have no idea.

CHILD, HOLDING CHICK: Do chickens make chicken?
E. Rat: Can you explain that a little more?
CHILD: Like, do they make fried chicken?
E. Rat: Yes.
CHILD: WILL THIS CHICKEN MAKE FRIED CHICKEN?
E. Rat: (Assists child in loosening sudden death grip on chick).
CHILD: WILL THIS CHICKEN MAKE FRIED CHICKEN?
E. Rat: Um, this chicken is too little.
CHILD: Oh, okay.

I'm just not so fast on my feet after the Promograduation insanity, you see.

27 May 2011

Educrats go home.

I am so tired and exhausted and fatigued and careworn and adjectivized of hearing that overturning teachers' due process rights "professionalizes" my profession.

If these people were serious about professionalizing my profession, there are any number of ways to do that that receive no interest from the deform crowd:

  • They could stop expecting me to purchase my own office supplies.
  • ...and my own office furniture.
  • They could make every effort to ensure I can visit a restroom when I need to. 
  • They could make sure my office is clean and safe.  You know, like making sure it even has a bathroom at all (two days with no water!  Thanks, City of San Francisco!  The twenty-minute K bathroom line on the upper-grade yard thanks you!).
  • I'd have an expense account for the art supplies.
Okay, I need to stop now.  We didn't have water, but we did have a hairdresser on site, and now many teachers are boasting feather extensions.  We look fantastic.  I have given up on the hope of checking out of my classroom today - I need to open the school Sunday anyway - but I'm still joining Team Kindergarten for snacks and drinks after school.  Fancy people complimented my vintage McQueen getup at a fancy education thingamajig last night.  All of my chicks are adopted, and we should have working bathrooms and water fountains today.

And it's the last day with my awfully cute class.

24 May 2011

And now it is Tuesday!

It is Promograduation today!

Yesterday I hung two big banners in the cafeteria; hopefully they are still hanging.  The Paper People go up this morning, and I need to place the tambourines and maracas under the kids' seats for quick retrieval (yet limited access) before their performance.

I have extra safety pins, bobby pins and clear nail polish in my bag.

I have a vegan coffee cake as a teacher thank you for dealing with picnic lunches today.

We are also having a Special City Visitor at Promograduation.  I believe this Visitor is planning a solo trip, but sometimes Visitors collect District entourages like chicken coops collect Kindergartners.  I am already getting District Bigwig hobnobbing later this week (although, alas, not at a venue that will allow for the impoliteness of reality), so I'm kind of hoping for limited entourage excitement.

And that the kids sing loud enough to be heard.

22 May 2011

And now, I go to work!

So Friday night, the chickens continued to grow.  How irritating of them to do all that life cycling!  Anyway, when I got to work Saturday it was clear that the current coop situation was untenable, so building a new, high-sided coop of chicken wire, duct tape and the old coop beat out every other responsibility.  Update:

  1. Self-Portrait Banner: Glued-and-glittered the names of all the students, cut the paper to the right size.  I still need to glue the portraits themselves on.  One portrait needs to be finished.
  2. Chicks: In possession of an even newer, even better coop that should take them through the week. 
  3. Diplomas: FINISHED.
  4. Assessment: FINISHED.
  5. Report Cards: I. don't. want. to. talk. about. this.
  6. Loading Cards: Need to attach assessments.
  7. Cum Folders: Oh, yeah.  Gotta do these, too.
  8. What I Am Doing Today: Going to work.
I have a UTR thing Thursday evening, and on Friday I'm checking into a sorta-fancy hotel with one of my Kindergarten cronies...and we're checking in at 3pm on the dot.  So I'm short afternoons to do mental health care (=go to the gym) and dentistry (of all times to break a tooth.  At least it's not visible) while also getting checked out of my classroom.  ARGH.

The sad possibility that I leave for New York Tuesday week (la la la la la la la) knowing I have to return to clean out my room grows.  I have considered making pledges ("No checkout, no visits to designer concessions!"), but I have this feeling that these would turn themselves into ("I will checkout all the faster so that I can wear this afterwards!").

(For the Responsibility Record: I have three homes for chickens, and if I have a couple of Straggler Chickens for whom I am caring for a couple of weeks, I do have someone on tap to take care of them while I New York it up.)
After being nauseated by the hateful, racist and disgusting online comments - some proud and explicit, others more hidden but no less evil - I was reminded of this Tim Wise essay.

I believe that it is truly wrong to allow such disgusting sentiments to be aired unchallenged.  Still, I'm going to exercise my own privilege and not challenge them (on the threads, at least).

It is depressing in the extreme to see the White Citizen's Councils of the Internet on local blogs.   I'm not unaware of local attitudes (although my own white privilege means I hear them less and their direct impact on me is minor).  But the acceptance of such attitudes as valid - that they are a reasonable, if extreme, argument to make - revolts and surprises me.  And I do believe that the caterwauling of extremists provides a nurturing environment for less hatefully stated, just as destructive racialist attitudes to grow.

21 May 2011

Promograduation is Tuesday, and...

  1. Instruments for performance of "Turn the World Around": Sanded, primed and painted.  Still need to be decorated.
  2. Giant "Class of 2027" Banner: Decorated.
  3. Paper People: Autobiographies written, affixed.  Googly eyes placed.  Most of the paper people have bottoms.  Still need jackets, hair, decorations and final coloring.
  4. Self-Portrait Banner: Um.  Yes.  Er.  In Planning.
  5. New Exciting Dress for the Teacher, Found at a Cost Point that Excuses Jello Mold Incidents at the Potluck: Check, Betsey Johnson crinolined prom dressy thing, bought secondhand.
  6. Sashes for Graduates: Glittered.  (Each kid gets one; they read "Future (Insert Career Here)".
  7. Chicks: In possession of larger new coop with bedding they cannot fully saturate with water for fun.
  8. Diplomas: I have them.  They have nothing on them, but I have them.
  9. Assessment: FINISHED.
  10. Report Cards: I. don't. want. to. talk. about. this.
  11. First Grade Class Loads: Done.
  12. Loading Cards: Need to attach assessments.
  13. What I Am Doing Today: Going to work.

20 May 2011

Multiple Domiciles Possibly Needed.

I left 14 healthy chicks in their new, improved, larger brooder yesterday afternoon.

They are so popular I have had to start locking my classroom door when I am not there, lest I return to chick paparazzi children.

Hopefully they had a fine night of rest and will be healthy and happy this morning.

17 May 2011

PG&E hates chickens.

I know because we had a power outage of adequate length that we had to move all the chickens - the ones in the incubator and the ones in the brooder (the kids named it "The Nest") - to another teacher's house.

They come back to school tomorrow.  13 have hatched and 2 more have pipped; one of the ones that pipped is not a healthy chicken and won't make it, I don't think.  This is sad and hard to explain to the kids. One of the ones that hatched today has shell stuck on its head and was attached to its umbilical cord for awhile.  It isn't drying very well.  Of course, it is my favorite chicken and the only one that I have secretly named in my head.  But otherwise they seem okay, especially given the whole "driving in a car after drastically falling temperatures".  We'll see.

In conclusion, PG&E tried to kill my class' chicks, the foul fiends.

16 May 2011

Chicken Impossible Continues

Eggs Pipped Today: 10
Eggs Hatched Today: 4

One of the four chicks was so hot to get out of its shell that it wasn't entirely detached to the membrane and it bled a little.  By the time I left school, it had stopped.

Of course they started hatching as soon as school got out.  Another teacher taped one hatching while we were in a staff meeting, and I texted a bunch of parents to come and see if they wanted.  Some of my kids who are in after school came and saw two hatch.

Crossing my fingers they are dry, fluffy and alive tomorrow.  I have a 7am meeting, so I will see them bright and early.

15 May 2011

Chicken Impossible!

We hooked up a "brooder" at school and found chick starter within city limits, which made for a win Saturday.

Also, we think we candled an egg.  We think there was a mass of soon-to-be-chick in it.

Sometimes It's Just Like This.

Just suddenly, bang.

You know, somewhere in between

  • hearing that six of your fellow classroom teachers are laid off
  • and mentally figuring out just which responsibilities will have to be added to yours this year
  • having spent three thousand dollars of your (reduced) salary on classroom materials this year but still needing to go buy copy paper
  • breaking up a fight
  • staying at school until 6pm to do paperwork and planning to be in at 6am for a before school meeting the next day
  • providing unstinting love to children with serious mental and emotional disturbances even when they are lashing out at you
  • living in a state where six year olds don't get time to paint at school
  • let alone do science
  • reading yet another attack on your pension in the Chronicle
  • whoops!  accident.
  • a routine traffic stop in front of the school during recess brings on a panic attack in one of your students
  • EPC sends you a new student with three weeks of school left
  • loading papers report card promotion talent show eggs personal life
  • Same standards, same demands, four less days of school and four extra students
  • having a specialist suggest that you (on the down low) suggest a parent contact an outside advocacy organization because your employer is committed to ignoring its responsibilities
you just get a little tired out.

You know, maybe the reason that the educrats are so convinced teachers are burnt out drones is because they've put so much effort into providing the conditions that lead to burnout.

I am not the only teacher I know who is starting to wonder just how much longer we really can hold out when every year offers worse morale for less pay and less support.

12 May 2011

SFUSD's teacher layoffs might go down easier if:
  • they had actually laid off 140 administrators, too (try 17) 
  •  that the administrators they did lay off were actually employed by the district (at least one left months ago) 
  •  the layoffs showed a commitment to equity (they don't - the southeast side takes the worst hit - and it's getting difficult to invoke hand-tying Ed Code policies)

SFUSD always seems surprised when its stakeholders find it difficult to express trust.  This is the kind of stuff that causes the lack of trust.  Either they just don't get it or they just don't care.

11 May 2011

Reality Nibbles Complacency

I skipped the BoE meeting, because I have a limited appetite for moral outrage about the status quo followed by a vote in favor of status quo.

What I understand to be SFUSD's belief is that teachers should protest, teachers should raise awareness about the dire state of education funding, teachers should close the opportunity gap no matter how bad that funding gets, teachers should expect a total lack of job security and layoffs, while Board Commissioners and Superintendents will make self-validating comments to the press.

The utter lack of responsibility is offensive.  I'm exhausted by listening to so much posturing followed by so little action.  In the end, when SFUSD takes action that is unambiguously worse for its highest-need communities, it is SFUSD - not California - choosing to act that way.

It is probably for the best that the District higher-ups have not seen the inside of a classroom in years.  Their stunning lack of innovation, creative thinking and belief in social justice leaves them unsuited to the profession.

10 May 2011

I have mad glitter skills.

They have even been seen on television.

09 May 2011

Scorched Earth Doesn't Burn Sacramento!

It takes six pages of New York Times magazine to get to the point, but it appears that the May revise will be exactly the "all-cuts" budget the state GOP is determined to give us.

Jerry uses the whole "the people have to see where their rhetoric ends up" rationale too.  There might even be something to it.

But when you're standing in a burnt-out shed hacking on smoke, it is really hard to hear that you're going to be firebombed so that the voters learn their lesson.

Somebody has to pay for an all-cuts budget.  It won't be nice for anyone.  It will be hell for a whole lot of people Jerry Brown doesn't know.

I suppose my biggest hope is that the state Dems in the Assembly give Jerry a raspberry and hold the budget until it's too late for the layoff window.  At least that way I'll have pleasant people with whom to drink tea before the smoke gets too thick.

08 May 2011

Paper People Autobiography Project

The first year I did this, with the help of a volunteer we traced and cut out each child.  This took days upon days to complete.  (That volunteer is now a credentialed teacher at my school, for the record...but pink slipped.)

So now we start with these.  They are intensely lightweight, but lining them with tagboard is more work than I can generally do at the end of the year.  Instead I demand the kids carry them carefully and provide tape surgery as needed.

Anyway.  The kids brainstorm, draft and edit an "autobiography" that covers several key issues (name, future career, something you like, something you can do, etc.).  I publish these by typing them up and printing them in the child's favorite color.  Then I paste them to the paper person's torso.

Other than the autobiography, the paper person is colored and given hair meant to match the child's own (although not with the detail of the Colors of Us project; that would take too long and too much paint).  I have doll hair, yarn and chenille stems for the hair and multicultural crayons and colored pencils for the bodies...oh, and giant googly eyes for the eyes.

Then the kids get to dress their simulacra.  I have a variety of tracing shapes for bottoms and jackets.  The jackets are tricky because the kids trace it, then flip it over and trace it the other way (to get a left and right side).  I have various cloth and felt remnants for the clothes and also some cardstock.  The bottoms are pasted on, but we attach the jackets at the shoulder with brads so that it can be "opened" to read the autobiography.

After that, I let the kids loose with buttons and jewels and similar geegaws to decorate their clothes as they like.  And then I hang the paper people in the cafeteria for the Promograduation.

These look great and the kids love making them and are always hot to take them home until they get forgotten in the Promograduation insanity.  I take photos of the kids holding their person so that their eventual destruction doesn't bum me out (this is one of maybe two projects I get really attached to and feel bad about finding destroyed).

07 May 2011

Doomsday May Revise

...and a whole week of fun times before it!

Having taught in financial climates adequate (2001 with a lot of II/USP money), bad (2002-3), worse (2004-5) and gruesome, yet predictably more gruesome each year (2005 - on), I am surprised that this year's May Revise may actually present a budget so bad that some school districts will get over the whole "find a way through" nonsense.

Actually, I am kind of hopeful that they will: that some districts will have the courage to say no, to refuse to present the state with a budget, to call for system-wide strikes and basically demand that California fund its responsibilities.  Let's face it: the state is used to grumbling and lawsuits followed by massive cuts and somehow limping through.

We need to draw the line.  It is not okay that some districts are back to 31:1 AM/PM Kindergarten with one teacher, no aides and no supplies.  It is not okay that basic aid districts will still manage to keep their "essentials" - art and music and labs and computers - while I eagerly await the day that the solution to the plumbing problem in the boys' room near my classroom is not "keep the door open all the time".

It is not okay that I can look forward to an ever-increasing class of kids who have not had adequate nutrition, medical care or preschool.  It is not okay that that half of those kids will have experienced major trauma, five will be homeless and four will have diagnosed learning differences.  It is not okay that I will be expected to ameliorate all of the above while buying all materials beyond pencils and integrating technology using two computers that are 15 years old and cannot load the local newspaper, let alone Google Maps.

I do not anticipate that SFUSD will be one of these districts, given that Beyond the Talk is a lot of talk about systems and MAPs and Redesigns and Overcoming the Historic Power of Demographics.  The District can't even get itself behind the symbolic action of, say, having its top brass take some solidarity pay cuts.  So I don't think we can expect any actual challenging of institutional racism.  I'm sure there will be some good rhetoric around how California won't fund SFUSD, leaving it with no choice but to sacrifice its neediest.

Unfortunately, the buck doesn't stop with California.  We need to have the moral courage to take responsibility for the actions we take - or that we fail to take.  What SFUSD chooses to do is not constrained by the choices it claims to have.  If this is a state of emergency, then the conditions demand extraordinary action.

Hard-working teachers putting that extraordinary effort in every day can look forward to a meaningless Day of the Teacher resolution and a rather more concrete pink slip.

That says a lot about how Beyond the Talk we're really willing to go.

06 May 2011

Side Benefits

My Resident is soloing this week and next.  So far, I have entirely prepped out an end of the year project, kept all our plants alive during the heat wave, made a calendar set for next year, and spent five minutes and rather more dollars at an online vintage flash sale.  (Let's just say that my vacation souvenir budget has been, erm, deducted in the amount of one fine dress.)  I'm always there, and I watch what's going on or take notes/get involved when needed, but for the most part she's in charge.

Next week I will spend the time doing end of year assessment, so today is the end of the semi-holiday.  And since it's the second week, I'll be able to focus entirely on the child I'm assessing (as opposed to having one ear open for drama - this is the longest period I've ever had a student teacher teaching solo in my room and it's a test in releasing control, that's for sure).