I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

28 September 2011

Could YOU teach?

Since many mavericky media types seem to think my job is crazy easy, I thought I'd post some of the oft-forgotten requirements.

Can YOU:

  • Go seven hours without a bathroom break?
  • Calmly accept that your shirt has been used as a Kleenex and you have no way to change it or even wash it well?
  • Stoop and squat to tie at least a dozen shoes a day?
  • ...including those whose laces are wet with unknown liquids?
  • Read Bearsie Bear and the Surprise Sleepover Party, making distinct character voices for all seven sleepover participants?
  • Go an entire working day without talking to any adults?
  • Open twenty milks in ninety seconds?
  • ...while cleaning two spilled milks?
  • Hunt through musty backpacks full of papers, small toys and crumbs to triumphantly find a permission slip?
  • ...then run a 50 yard dash at NFL-draftable speeds to get it signed?
  • ...and remembering to bring a pen and a clipboard?

26 September 2011

Reading Ms. at the gym today, I was reminded that one of the many reasons women are disproportionately impacted by cuts to public education and social services is because women disproportionately fill the jobs in those fields: teachers, social workers, nurses, etc.

This got me to thinking about value-added assessment as a year-to-year salary and job security "tool".  Specifically, what does that structure do for teachers who wish to have a child?

Since the majority of teachers are women, and assuming something other than the temporary corps of Teach for Some Experience about America for My Resume, many teachers are going to take maternity leave during their career.  Twelve weeks out of thirty five is a lot, and no matter how much planning goes into it, a long-term sub is not the teacher.  It's likely that children's test scores will be impacted by a teacher's leave.

So that teacher who chooses to have a child may be gambling with her job.  Unpleasant.  In most jobs requiring the same educational preparation as teaching, that kind of pressure is sex discrimination.  Something tells me that New York City public schools aren't intending to make any kind of allowances for that.  I doubt the great male minds at the Gates Foundation have thought of this, and Enron was a notoriously sexist climate so I'll bet John Arnold hasn't either.

Of course, if you do have an endless stream of two-years-and-outers, this isn't really an issue.  It's only when teachers want to stay and work that they develop these adult lives and become such a drag on the system.

25 September 2011

Bill Gates and His Laboratory.

Oakland Unified wants to close some schools.  It's planning to close thirteen schools, most of them small schools.  Small schools are very expensive to run - in particular, they increase administrative costs.

Bill Gates and his eponymous foundation were huge drivers of small schools - they sent a functionary to a staff meeting at the school were I was teaching to try to find teachers to support such an effort.  (They failed; we had seven hundred and fifty K-6 students and a mess of portables, sure, but things were good.)  I asked the functionary what would happen after the three years of Gates cash; he admitted that the costs would fall to districts - and that the costs existed.

Gates didn't spend any foundation cash on research, and ended up pulling small schools cash early when the schools ended up making no real difference (except for the added costs).

Gates now has a new solution for the districts he's burdened: cut pensions, raise class sizes and institute performance pay.  Apparently, the financial issue isn't the additional administrators on the payroll thanks to small schools, or the increased building costs small schools require, or the costs associated with school closings, or falling school budgets.  No, it's the teachers.

Needless to say, Gates has put as much research into this as he did small schools.  I'm sure the effects will be predictably similar, if not worse.

It's time to stop allowing big pocketbooks to experiment on our public institutions.  They aren't even willing to clean up after themselves, and they want to punish us all for their messes.

It's time to stop allowing Bill Gates opportunity after opportunity to destroy public education.  Yes, he made a lot of money by taking A prompt out of the public domain and selling it as his own program.  Yes, he has a great deal of interest in public education although not so much that his children attend public schools or anything.  Yes, we often learn from our mistakes.

But Gates shows no learning: he's still jumping in with both feet and a blindfold.  When it ends up he's landed on concrete, he demands public money for his hospital bills.  He's unwilling to research first: it's all urgent urgency, and it's better to fail a few years of children than look at any data beforehand.

OUSD should bill the Gates Foundation.  Once Bill's cleaned up after himself, it might be possible to start taking him seriously.

24 September 2011

More Unsent Letters

Dear Christian Science Monitor,

How nice of you to send me a teaser magazine suggesting I subscribe to your publication.  The contents of that teaser were exceptionally instructive, particularly when you explained how money doesn't matter to school success.

As you see it in your center-right, two-sides-to-every-issue faux contrarianism, some schools are making it work without a penny extra.  Apparently they do this through merit pay.  Since my understanding is that merit pay would, in fact, lead to higher salaries, I must assume money is being cut elsewhere - either through destroying retirement funds or cutting student programs, I suppose.

Despite there being not one datum that supports merit pay in any way, I have to tell you you're missing the obvious:

Money Does Too Matter.

Money matters for my students, who annually get more crowded classrooms with fewer resources.  It matters to their families, many of whom live in poverty with all of its deleterious effects on school success (bad health, trauma, poor nutrition, food insecurity, housing insecurity...).  It matters to me, because I am on track to spend more than my "Hard to Staff" bonus on the school supplies California won't buy this year.

It matters to the many, many upper-middle class parents - some of whom undoubtedly work for the Monitor - as they willingly pay five and six and seven times more than California's per-pupil allocation in search of well-funded, low-poverty private schools.

And it definitely matters to you, editors of the Christian Science Monitor.  What underlies all this "school success has nothing to do with cash" nonsense is selfishness.  "Public schools take too much of our hard-earned tax dollars," you huff and puff.  "We need that money for other things, like tax breaks for the wealthy.  After all, private school tuition is higher than ever!"

Your teaser made it abundantly clear that your publication is not to my tastes, and I'm not the kind of reader you want.  In the future, to save on paper and postage, I recommend that you cross-check your purchased mailing lists with public teacher credential databases.

All the Best,

E. Rat


22 September 2011

Kindergarten is Neat

Yesterday my class got ooooh and aaaaah excited by getting a piece of McIntosh and a piece of Granny Smith apple to eat and compare.

Also, Readers' Workshop included one kid strutting around like the peacock in The Best Bottom and another kid who finished retelling by announcing, "And that's THE END of Big Al."  Not to mention the kid who came in announcing that he had a connection to Trouble Gum.

21 September 2011

Hmph Halloween.

Except for the year I wore an old black lace prom dress and a witch hat, the Ksters never figure out what my Halloween costume is.  I suppose that's fair; I mean, I couldn't figure out the "Baterina" craze either.

So this year, I'm not bothering.  I'm going as Melanie Daniels from "The Birds".  I have my little green suit, a neutral pump and plenty of ravens to affix artistically.  I figure this costume will at least look freaky and be recognizable as a costume - last year I went as a sailor and some of the kids didn't think I wore a costume.

19 September 2011

Unsent Letters

Congressperson Ryan:

I do understand that talking points require certain inflammatory statements be intoned.  That said, your depiction of "class warfare" - that of the teeming multitudes against the very wealthy - takes partisan rhetoric into mendacity.

"Class warfare" is Bill Gates explaining - from his vast mountains of riches and nil teaching experience - how having thirty students in a class wouldn't make much of a difference.

"Class warfare" is Republican-dominated state legislatures condemning the formerly pensioned to penury while protecting and increasing their own lifetime rewards.

"Class warfare" is the rising poverty rate nationwide.

"Class warfare" is the end of the free snack Food Bank program at many school sites this year, because fiscal austerity means San Francisco is not a poor enough county to qualify for federal funds.

"Class warfare" is spending more money on incarceration than education.

"Class warfare", in short, is what people of the upper classes visit upon my students.

ETA: Scott Lemieux sums it up: 

Again, the central premise of the contemporary Republican Party is that people making $400K+ a year are living a hardscrabble existence, while a teacher or police officer making $50 K a year is enjoying a pampered life of unimaginable luxury.

18 September 2011

Not All Guests, Also Crafts.

What We Have Been Doing Lately:

Sprouting Wings: I bought these.  The quality on these is really good - the cardstock is so thick the kids couldn't paper punch it, actually.  This was a three-day project:

  1. Symmetrical Painting: Paint half of one side with a thick layer of acrylic paint, fold over and press.  This would've gone better with finger paint - it's easier to get a thick coat and finger paint is less sticky - but we didn't have any, and I uncovered a bunch of acrylic at SCRAP last year.
  2. Pick Two Centers: Kids got about twelve minutes at two centers (three available): using dot markers, using glitter glue and stick-on rhinestones (you used to be able to get these very cheaply at OTC, but no more it seems), and using paper punches and ribbons to make streamers.
  3. Finishing Day: Kids get a twenty-minute center to use whatever they want to finish off their wings, plus chip glitter glue (which covers huge areas with both sparkly shapes and translucent color for a nice effect).
Unity Mosaics: We do a virtue every month at our school and start with unity.  I got a bunch of paper mosaic tiles and gave every kid a pattern sheet to make a mosaic.  Each one had a quarter of a larger design, so when they were all fitted together, they made a big wall display.  The kids really liked these, particularly seeing them hanging, and want to do this again.

Oh Look, Science: We demonstrate liquid water turning into a steam by making tea using mint from the school garden.  Once the kids start steeping their tea (we were fairly free with the honey this year, too) we demonstrate how the steam can be collected and condensed into water).  We also put flowers in liquid watercolor so that we can use capillary action to show that liquids flow.  And we froze liquid watercolor so that the kids who aren't using the play sink can use paintsicles (luckily, it's supposed to be warm this week).

Once we finish with water/states of matter/water cycle stuff, I want to do color and light again.  I also committed to doing a month of family/celebrations/remembering crafts and Dia de los Muertos stuff with the 2nd graders next door and my ex-Resident's 1st graders.  And I signed my class up for monthly environmental education trips with Kids in Parks.  So in some ways it feels like my first year all over again - tons of new stuff to plan out and organize, etc.  Still, some things are easier: this is the first year that I've managed to have stress-free crafternoons, just assuming the kids will move themselves between stations and everything will get cleaned up (starting clean up fifteen minutes before the bell helps - if they clean fast, we can pack up and go outside for a quick afternoon debrief/PE game/song, and if they don't it still gets done by the bell).

16 September 2011

Weeks of Plus-Many

Last week, I hosted eight kids on ISS over the week.

This week, I have hosted two kids on cool-downs, one kid on ISS and four kids from a first grade class that had a no-show substitute.  I have also had eleven adult observers over the week.

Today I am anticipating no visitors whatsoever, and we are going to observe steam and use the boiling water to make mint tea.  Also, capillary action will enable observation of water flowing upwards to dye flowers.  Barring any spillage, it should be an easy day of just-us.  Which is really nice sometimes.

14 September 2011

grit teeth and bear it.

Very busy, class very cute, twenty two days and no outfit repeats as of today.

07 September 2011

Heat Wave Education!

Given the insulation, we're in for a couple of warm days.  These will be only the second and third of the year.  However:

  • big giant Donors Choose fan: check.
  • small, strategically-placed fans: check.
  • spray bottles set to mist: check.
  • class set of bottled water: check.
  • popsicles (the high-fruit, low-sugar kind): check.
So at least we're prepared.

04 September 2011


From the New York Times:

“Let’s hope the fiscal crisis doesn’t get better too soon. It’ll slow down reform,” said Tom Watkins, the former superintendent for the Michigan schools, and now a consultant to businesses in the education sector.

The fiscal crisis is harming students.  Case in point: the Arizona district profiled has more students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch with no demographic change: it's the same kids, just living in more poverty.  Closer case in point: the San Francisco Food Bank isn't providing snacks to low-income schools this year.  They don't have the resources.

That's just food.  Higher poverty means worse housing conditions: we have more homeless or insecurely-housed students than ever at our school.  There are fewer programs for children outside of school.  Adults are under more stress, and higher stress rarely leads to good outcomes for children.

I could go on, but I don't want to take the focus off the education deformers.  Ultimately, they are so tied to their agenda that they cheer for conditions that are bad for children.  Mr. Watkins hopes that more children suffer so that his profitable, private concerns get more public cash.  Rarely do reformers state their purpose so clearly.  They're about anything but the children.  The harm children experience is second - if that - to the profit motive.

We need to take these revolting folks seriously, but we must refuse to cede them even an inch.  There is no moral value, no ethics, and no care for children or our future in their position.  We must call out their lies.

02 September 2011

Three Weeks Down, Three Day Weekend.

We had a stunning turnout at Back to School Night.  My personal BtSN stress was lowered by the helpful addition of a project for parents and kids to do.  These came out really cute and I need to get to work to hang them up.

Also, the kids got to go to town on the play kitchen while there, and since they've had relatively little kitchen time they should be very happy today.

The kids also earned a special reward and voted for a Learning Video, so they get to see a Tomi Ungerer story DVD and then watch the "Solids Liquids Gases" video from Here Comes Science to preview the water unit starting next week.  Providing the Hunt for a Working DVD Player is successful, it should be a good afternoon (for a fairly warm day).

Now I just need to decide if the harem-pant jumpsuit or the Ferretti sundress provide the best warm day wear.