pandemo (pandemo) wrote,

Lifetime Learners/Model Prisoners: A Discussion of Educational Philosophy

I've been working up to this all summer.  It's been stewing in the back of my mind, nebulous, amorphous, ever since I first heard of NCLB (No Child Left Behind).  This summer has been a constant bombardment of thought-provoking ideas and gut-wrenching emotional upsets.  As it gels and solidifies into discernable shape, I'll keep posting the state of my mind here.

Sheep vs. goats
Model prisoners vs. lifetime learners
Jump through the hoops successfully vs. be all that you can be
Dissemble vs. maintain personal integrity

As Shakespeare so eloquently put it, "To be, or not to be;/That is the question."

Put your money where your mouth is.
Put up or shut up.
W.C. Fields? "You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time."
View the world through rose-colored glasses vs. welcome to the real world

Stephanie and Justin start school in Riverton on the 28th.  Justin transferred from Wind River to Riverton at semester break last January.  It was 2 weeks after he turned 16 and obtained his drivers license (easing the 25 mile one way
transportation issue).  Stephanie will be joining him this year.  Both have maintained their 4.0 GPA.  Stephanie's overall TerraNova score put her in the 98th percentile nationally, the same as Justin after completing his sophomore year.  We loved the little school for grade school with 10 to 12 kids in each grade, but the downside is that the school lacks the budget to offer the more advanced classes our kids need.  We decided it is better to pay a little in gasoline now than pay for remedial classes when they hit college.  Besides, they will need scholarships.

I have to tell you truthfully, Steve, that I am GREATLY RELIEVED to hear that the kids are going to a bigger school.  The argument is that they get more personal attention in small classes.  The reality is that the teacher in a class with diverse learning levels/reading levels/motivational levels (and they ALL are, unless only one student is present) the level drops to the lowest common denominator unless a system of individualization is in place.

The further along in the educational process, the larger and more meaningful that gap becomes.  The benefit of the bigger class is the added diversity, which stimulates the mind.  The fear is that "bad ideas" may be introduced.  BUT, learning to handle them prepares people for life's ups and downs far better than hiding one's head in the sand does.

I use the explanation that if a high school kid moves to Des Moines, and has never heard of Triple X movies (or whatever), people of certain moral fiber will have no trouble walking on by (once they realize what it IS... ) while others will go in and wallow.  I don't think there's any SURE way to determine that for your children.
Sue K.
I'm truly worried about this school year.  They eliminated the vice-principal and replaced the position with two: a dean of students and a "coach" for all the crap from the PED because we are not making AYP.  The coach is Dianna; she was the only applicant for the job; she was sick of classroom and took it to stay at LA with me.

I'm terrified the conflict I can see coming from her job and mine will ruin our friendship.  You know me, San; I don't do dog and pony shows...  She just told me tonight that 40 minutes per day of our 90 minute plan (we did go to the
block schedule) must be spent with her on all this Baldridge, High Schools That Work, happy horseshit dog and pony show shit the state is demanding.  There are some good things about it all, most of which I have already implemented in my own way in my classroom, but the bulk of it is pie in the sky crap, most of which I am simply naseated by, but some of which I seriously disagree with.

Sooo...I am now looking forward to what I truly think is going to be an utterly miserable year from which I hope to survive without losing the best friend I have here...  Great.  I've already pretty much made up my mind that as much as I love it here, if my job makes me insane and totally miserable it isn't worth it.  If I have to I will quit at semester and move to Arizona, live with mom until I can get a place and get my real estate license and go to work for Ken Meade.  It isn't what I want, but I will NOT stay in teaching if it's as bad as I think it's going to be.

I can tell you, regardless of what we do out there, we are not going to make AYP.  We are not going to be alone, but that isn't much consolation.  Our kids just do not have the parental support to make them interested in learning or education.  And then there are all the usual problems, booze, drugs, suicide, pregnancy, fights...

Our math scores are totally down the toilet...and our reading scores are not much better.  Hell, I finally got all the kids Star tested before the end of school and I had less than 20% reading at grade level.  I had probably 50% reading below high school level and these are juniors and seniors!  I had a lot reading at elementary level...

Oh well...suck it up Sue, just do the job and walk away and forget it at the end of the day...  Hey, it's still a record, I've made 4 years going on 5 and finally got tenure someplace...the sad thing is, just like before, it's never the teaching; it's the bureaucratic bullshit...  I have no clue how you have stood it this long.  But then, teaching has gotten worse and worse and worse...


I am determined that it will NOT be an exercise in which I basically talk back to myself...  I need to collect the material I wrote about it in my reaction piece for college.  I had hoped that the teacher would react.  It had not jelled yet, so he may not have been able to.

I may need to put a tape recorder beside my bed.  One night, I got on a roll and, boy, the arguments sounded so good!  I was SO SURE I'd remember them...  But, alas, all I can remember is HOW GOOD THEY WERE!  Big help!


Word of the Day for Sunday, August 13, 2006

corroborate \kuh-ROB-uh-rayt\, transitive verb:
To strengthen or make more certain with other evidence.

Whenever I can, I interview family and friends extensively both to corroborate the history given me by the defendant and to gain insight into his behavior and personality.
-- Barbara R. Kirwin, Ph.D., The Mad, the Bad, and the Innocent: The Criminal Mind on Trial

He said that when the jurors confronted discrepancies in any of the prosecution witnesses' descriptions, they used the testimony of other prosecution witnesses to corroborate the chronology.
-- "Most Jurors Thought Schwarz Aided Attack, Foreman Says", New York Times, August 2, 2002

As we have no public notoriety, no concurrent testimony, no records to support and corroborate what we deliver, it becomes us to keep within the limits not only of possibility, but of probability too.
-- Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones


Corroborate is from Latin corroboratus, past participle of the verb corroborare, "to strengthen," from com-, "with" + roborare, "to strengthen," and is related to robust. Entry and Pronunciation for corroborate

To Sue:
What a relief!  I can't believe it -- a sensible schedule!  What is that district thinking about!

I have some input from the AR classes for your friend...

Did you (she) take any AR training from COMPANY SOURCES?  I got into two batches of it between the first and second years I did it.

Star tests are NOT suitable for giving a grade level for NCLB purposes, but only for identifying reading matter that is appropriate.  (My 7-8th grade classes always have some testing 12+... which gives them a lowest acceptable level of 5.1 for the AR rating on the book.)  DON'T EVER REQUIRE anyone to read ANYTHING independently that is over 5.1!  If it is their choice, fine.

The AR material has a three pronged balance to it: reading RATE, % correct on quizzes, and reading level.  Oral fluency, listening skills, mastery of terms, etc. are all add-ons.  AR covers only comprehension, and is heavily based in vocabulary.

AND, of course, the same fight I always have: The company says NEVER GRADE AR with a letter grade.

Hope that will help with a bit of FUEL.  Suggest she go for company training... :-)


My boss decided that when they divided the AR class (more than my room could hold), *I* should teach the other teacher (Jr. Hi. English but formerly and by training, a MATH person...) the ins and outs of the program.

I objected, suggesting instead that she take over the Applied Communications class, which SHOULD BE the budding Bill Gates' in the school system, but is used as a remedial "last ditch" English, so I teach it accordingly.  I explained how the scheduling could be made to work.

He didn't want to hear it.  "Can't YOU teach her how to do AR?"

"Yes.  Can you get her to want to learn it?"

Well, I chased her all over the building the first two days, finally just throwing up my hands.  Every time she had a crisis, she'd INTERRUPT my quiet, on-task class, taking them off task no matter what she pulled.

So, shortly after mid-quarter, he goes on the rampage.  The LD lady, also the one trying to spearhead our switch to LCD reading, ("let them get dressed up and act out some of the scenes... let them draw pictures of what they read, let them give oral book reports, etc. [Now, I ask you HOW IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT I WAS USING BEFORE???]) came down and we were going to switch stuff RIGHT NOW.  I was quite alarmed.  I seriously thought about quitting.  Then, after I'd pointed out logically and reasonably every hole/problem I could think of [ AND I AM nothing if not imaginative...] they backed off.  She took the files over Christmas, heading for a target date of new semester...  NOTHING HAPPENED.

My main question was "How will you guarantee she'll do the NEW STUFF according to directions?"  Saying in an evil voice, "Oh, I can make her do it," just doesn't cut much ice with me.

So, I was supposed to leave material for the LD lady, which I did, and tell her how to get in touch with me.  (you mean, more than the address/phone/email in the staff directory?)  I told them to contact me, and I would come in.  BEFORE school started.  Well, we have till the 21st, and I've not heard a WORD.  I did manage to let the principal know that I'd completed all my required hours for recertification.


I keep my room quiet, provide sources not available in the local library, guide them toward books I think will interest/motivate them, keep them from breaking any family taboos I KNOW about already, show them how to write quizzes for books that aren't in our libraries, etc. etc. etc... but, that is STILL unacceptable.

We have to entertain them, as well.  (What, you think BOOKS *ARE* ENTERTAINING???  NOOOooo... they're cruel and unusual punishment we inflict on people we don't like very much....  Lifetime learners, you say?  What's that supposed to mean?  What's the boob tube FOR, anyway?)

Back when it was okay to make your own decisions and do your own thing, I had six high school kids in a "free reading" program.  So as not to damage their psyche, we worded it that way to FOOL people into thinking everyone was okay... [Well, I do remember DELIGHTING one poor sad sack type of a guy...  HE LOVED TO READ and could NOT believe he could get a "for real" high school credit for doing so, for 55 uninterrupted minutes, every day...  He kept his 4.0. too...  SURPRISE!] {this was back before we became more sensitized to the lowered attention span of our high school students and went to an 8 period, 45 minute day, with more down time between classes...})

Over Christmas, one not very bright lady in our Sunday school class (not the one who substituted "immorality" for "immortality" without realizing there was a difference) came up with a "personal question."

"What did you do to my son in that reading class?"

"Oh, no!"  I thought, frantically trying to figure out which of the two kids with the same last name was her son.  I put a puzzled look on my face, but had not come up with a THING to say when she continued on her own, naming the young man in question, fortunately.

"He stayed in his room, reading his book, instead of watching ... , which is his FAVORITE TV show."

Poor dear!  I showed him something he LIKED.  He got an A... which infuriated one of the staff members... (he had the wrong last name to be given an A for anything...)  I had to take the AEA's testing results in Aug. and the late May follow-ups into the office and have a conference with the principal to defuse the situation . The kid came in at 1.6 and went out at 3.3.  AND THAT WAS NOT WORTH AN A?  The biggest gain in the class?  I didn't hear any more about THAT until the principal changed.

The new guy REMOVED THE CLASS from the curriculum.  Voilá, no more high school reading problem!

This year, they certainly ought to be HAPPY.  I'll have 8th grade first hour -- the ten (baring the moves into/out of the district) from last year, PLUS the five that were up in the LD room, four of whom have permanent aides.  The room is physically big enough to hold that many people, just barely, but those kids with the aides?  No problem, right?

They will need to be READ ALOUD TO.  The poor, sweet-natured crack baby can't remember his telephone number from one day to the next.  I'm just SURE we'll be able to get him up to 8th grade level...  And that is such an APPROPRIATE goal for him, too, don't you think?

CIRCUS TIME!  I feel as if I ought to stand at the door humming a circus parade tune and barking out, "Step right this way, folks, for the greatest show on earth!" every few bars.

Can I quit yet?  Not and survive... :-(

On Aug 15, 2006, at 6:41 PM, Sue Kaster wrote:


It's ok.  I have a good schedule, only one section of juniors who I will only see on the "B" schedule days.  The "A" schedule days are wonderful, first hour prep, senior English, senior English, speech.  "B" days first period prep, senior English senior English, junior English.

I'm not quite sure how or why that works...but that's what it says.

Dianna and I have already had one minor clash...this year is for sure going to test our friendship.  I'm not going to sweat the small stuff, hopefully we will be able to compromise on the big stuff... Today was small stuff.  I had shown her my idea for AR and she picked it apart according to "high schools that work".  I resisted the temptation to say, "Ok, so this is how high schools that work does it, and that is how Baldridge does it, but it's my god damn classroom and this is how Sue does it...they hired me, not two corporations.  Or maybe the whole idea is that no one gets to do anything "their way" anymore, we all just have to be clones of whoever the hell these people think they are.
The contention was over not even offering students an option for "c" or "d" work...they have to achieve "b" or "a" work, period.  Fine...when the kids ask I'll just tell them we are no longer allowed to offer them options below a "b", they all have to become A and B students.  It should be interesting...I would have been one of the first parents in their ripping someone's face off.

So, other than that problem the rest seems ok so far.  That's a relief.  I was shocked when I saw the schedule, Mr. Reed had to have had something to do with that, the guidance counselors have always refused to allow kids no option for teachers, but this time that is what they have, I have all the seniors, end of statement.

Good news was, our graduation rate and our math scores where what kept us off AYP.  Reading was ok...was actually just a hair and a freckle above where we had to be, and that was with a huge test fuck up which resulted in about half the student body not finishing one I'm relieved...

Now I'm going to brain dead out watching the tube and crash by 8 p.m..
Another year begins...

FB via email

It sounds like most of the school problems everywhere.  Some in authority like to tell the rest how it has to be; tonight our news told of and "expert" who said our SD schools and the state, need to spend an additional 825 a year when the recommended raise this year was something over 115 per pupil.  They keep saying South Dakota schools are so bad, the teachers are underpaid, and if we gave them a blank check, we couldn't afford to pay our taxes.  There is too much frill and not enough real things taught. It seems to be the trend these days that to learn, they have to have fun. What happened to work, and subjects that were not just for fun, but for learning?

Okay, I know, I'm old and it was a long time ago, but I still know they have to be taught responsibility and they are there for an education, not a play ground.
Tags: school rules/philosophies

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