The Real Reason we Still Teach Despite the Idiots in Charge

 

 

What We Do Not Know

 

A little girl, no more than nine

Walks among strangers

On the old avenue.  She

Is on her way to school.

 

Her head is bowed, her step

Is heavy.  She’s seen too much

Of sadness.

 

Each morning before school beckons,

She buys a sandwich from

The corner store, half

For breakfast, the rest for lunch.

 

School is bright and cheery,

Her teacher understands

This little girl, no more than nine,

Whose eyes have already dimmed.

 

In math class, she is quiet,

Dutifully scratching her figures

In her brother’s last year’s notebook.

 

She is quite good in math, her teacher

Can’t help but notice.  But questions

Fall on deaf ears, she seldom likes

To answer.  The teacher understands.

 

Sometimes when she is reading alone

In the back of the room, the teacher

Sees her smile.  The book has come alive

In her hands, she can save the day.

 

Recess seems to scare this girl,

The teacher lets her stay in

And help with whatever can be done,

It does not matter what,

As long as the teacher says

How nice you look, and thank you

Very much.  I couldn’t keep my room

So nice without your help.

 

In art class, this little girl,

Comes alive and sparkles.

 

Her paintings line the school hallways

And her black and white drawings

Have won praise from kids and teachers alike.

 

Yet homework seldom is complete

And papers seldom signed,

The teacher understands, has seen

This scene before.

 

Calls and letters home have gone

Unanswered, no one seems to care.

On parent’s night and conference day,

The little girl’s seat is empty.

 

A deal is made, for homework done

And papers signed, an extra art class

Can be arranged.  How simple

And powerful, the little girl,

No more than nine, can earn

The right to hope.

 

More often than not now,

The girl’s work is complete

And offered with a smile

To her smiling teacher.

 

The year passes, and the last day

Arrives.  A smiling girl, no more

Than ten now, runs into the room,

Clutching a letter to her chest,

Then thrusts it at her teacher.

 

Thank you for everything, you’ve

Meant so much to my daughter,

She loves you as do I.

That was all the letter said.

 

Years later, the girl, now close

To twenty, reappears, bounce in her step.

I never told you what you meant to me,

My mother was dying that year

I know that I was difficult to like

But you still believed in me.

My first art show opens tomorrow

Would you be my guest of honor.

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Anyone With their head in the Sand?

In America, we do not prioritize education by any measuring stick whatsoever.

Our parents and caregivers send their children less prepared and less able to learn than the previous year.

Budgets are shrinking and giving fewer resources every year.

Standards are increasing every year with the advent of high stakes testing and common core driven teaching.

Behaviors are increasingly strangling the teachers’ ability to teach as we entitle our children’s future away and teach them that as long as it feels good, it must be a meaningful path to follow.

Contrast this to Singapore and read the excerpt from a CNN article.

(http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/05/asia/singapore-smartest-kids/)

The importance of education is instilled at a young age — before children even get to primary school.

“I think for us as preschool educators, we are the foundation years,” said Diana Ong, principal at Pat’s Schoolhouse Sembawang Country Club, a preschool in the north of Singapore. “We form the basic foundation.

“I think the first years of a child’s life is very important. So when you have a very confident child, that child’s confidence will carry him or her through primary school as well. Not only do you want a child that is smart, you want a child who is resilient.”

Schleicher says it’s part of the culture of many Asian countries for parents to prioritize their children’s education.

“It starts with resources, the priority they assign to education,” he explained. “In these countries, parents and grandparents are going to invest their last resources, their last money into … the education of their children.

“This is sort of a question of priorities. You can see in all tiers of public policy, education comes first. That’s your future.”

————-

Priorities are defined by what a nation spends their money and leisure time on.

We are in trouble friends.

 

 

 

 

A Poem of What ails Us

The right and left came out to play

One bright sun shiny American day

In fields of wheat and mountaintops

In small dusty towns and big city nights

The sound of their music charmed the crowds

But soon the idiot and fake prophet emerged

Stole the microphone and sang their own tunes

Hijacked the airwaves turned their back on the bones

Laying beneath the earth in their tombs

Having given their lives already once dead

They died again, their souls gutted and strung

Across the long stretches of barbed wire fences

Separating America into three hundred million pieces

Education and Politics – We are What we Allow

Common sense and decency lie in ruins, replaced by self-aggrandizement and narrow minds.

 

Both sides are rummaging through the piles of rubbish looking for a piece of something recognizable that they can hold up and say, “Look, we were with you all along.  It’s their fault.”

 

The truth is that they are a victim of their own inflated egos and have grown to believe that their ideals, created in the cauldron of self-involvement and like-minded pools of equally self-involved minds, reflect the desires of an entire nation. 

 

The truth is both sides are entrenched in entitlements and that their reelections often depend on what entitlements they secure for their constituency. 

 

The truth is we are so attached to our entitlements that we often vote for those who seem most likely to give us more of what we are used to.

 

The truth is we are so isolated from the rest of our world we used to know that we fail to understand the need to be a citizen demands responsibilities based on relationships and expectations and mutual benefits.

 

The truth is, in America, the vote can still bring change should we choose to be engaged.

 

The truth is, in America, we have sold our votes to the loudest bidders on our emotions and we have mistaken our beliefs for absolutes.

Enough – illiteracy costs money to fix. DOE should be renamed – Doesn’t Operate Efficiently

Let’s be real

Children who emerge from poverty are, statistically speaking, more likely to engage in behaviors and to engage in educational practices that are counter productive to success in education.

It is not about race but the hypocrites have labeled it as such.

It is about entitlement, prejudice and politics.

The only way to make change in a person’s life is to engage the caregivers as early as possible in a child’s life.

NOTHING else works.

As a teacher, my own students rise and fall on the backs of their caregivers.

NOTHING else works.

Unless we force parents and caregivers, unless we engage parents and caregivers in their own child’s education, children will only progress so far.

I CAN NOT, by myself, uncover a child’s greatness in any meaningful and long term way, unless parents are intimately involved.

I am so sick and tired of seeing parents and caregivers offer less, states and districts demand more, and the children drowning in the collective indifference of a self absorbed society gone mad.

It is no different than relying on cholesterol medicine while insisting that being overweight and eating the wrong foods is why we have doctors.

I refuse to allow parents off the hook. With conferences on the horizon, I have every intention of telling them that their child’s progress in dependent upon them following my recommendations.

Unless districts and states force parents to take accountability, the issues will worsen, the charter schools will continues to grow and public schools will become the dumping grounds for the neglected children of our generation.

Behavior is a conversation. I know, with certainty, that schools of poverty have far worse behavior than those of prosperity. Why do we accept degrading levels of behavior from our poverty schools – we have lost the collective courage to look in the mirror, embrace the truth that children’s behavior is a reflection of what we, as adults, allow or don’t allow.

If we want to be ethical and moral, understand that most aberrant behaviors are manifestations of repeated failures and a loss of hope and perceived power.

Failure to fund poverty stricken schools is a blatant act of prejudice – a hatred of those who have fewer resources. Failure to instill accountability in our entitlement programs deepens the gap between potential greatness and reality.

Relationships are the backbone of progress and results.  Positive relationships create positive results and negative relationships create negative results.  Perhaps the scariest statistic is the number of young people and increasingly adults whose relationships have been nurtured by the electronic media.

There is always an explanation for everything that happens.

There is always an excuse for everything that happens.

The problem is when we interchange those terms to rationalize behaviors, our own or others.  An explanation guides us to solution whereas an excuse amplifies the conflict.  We are increasingly allowing excuses to bastardize more and more of the daily interactions of our lives and in our schools.

The Real Achievement Gap

In all my life, with hundreds of students passing through my classroom and thousands through the lenses of my eyes, and millions more through the camera eyes of a nation’s educational system, certain truths emerge.  Unassailable truths.  Beacons of truth that transcend poverty, rise above mediocrity and define greatness.

Children who are read to from infancy through kindergarten fare better in school and in their future job and college readiness and lifetime earnings.  That is ironclad truth, summarized in scores of studies and underscored by millions of educators’ pool of common sense and absolute certainties.

 

Yet children who emerge from poverty are, as taken as a whole, read to with less frequency and duration than their peers in the higher demographics.  Yet there is no government policy that forces books and literacy out of parents’ and caregiver’s hands and into the hands of the wealthy.  Literacy is free and cheap and easy to get.

 

Children who emerge from homes with the same behavioral expectations as the schools into which they will attend learn more, perform better and fare better in their future job and college readiness and lifetime earnings.  That is ironclad truth, summarized in scores of studies and underscored by millions of educators’ pool of common sense and absolute certainties.

 

Yet schools where the poverty is high often have a higher rate of discipline issues and therefore less learning can and ever will take place.  Those with poor behavior often blame the system for their failings, and turn the other way when their child interferes with a teacher’s ability to teach and the children’s rights to learn.

 

Here is an absolute truth.  I am certain of this.  Good behavior is free.  Sit and listen to the teacher and learn to read is free.  Play nicely in kindergarten is a free activity, offered by every public elementary school in America.

 

Now, for the real reason, in my opinion, that public education is in desperate straits, attacked by idiot politicians and greedy business folks, all of whom operate from a basic prejudice and elitism.  If one wants to point the finger at real racism, look no further than the political and corporate greed raping and pillaging the taxpayer owned public school system to line their own pockets while ripping resources from our neediest of young people, most of whom happen to be our African American brethren.

 

Charter schools are only attractive because parents who are the most involved see what is happening with behavior in our schools and pull their children and place them in environments where they think better learning and therefore greater opportunities await them.  They’ve been sold a bill of goods by the likes PT Barnum clones who juggle truth like acrobats and pull the wool over the eyes of good people.  Charter schools, on average, perform NO better than public schools on average.

 

The common denominators are still active parental involvement, a shared set of behavioral and academic expectations and at the end of the line, a child’s willingness and ability to come into a classroom, sit down and listen and get involved.

 

I know there are millions of people in our country whose very survival is precarious, where day to day existence seems far more urgent then long term dreaming of a future that looks grim.  I know that government entitlement programs sterilize entire generations of greatness by giving without asking for an accompanying responsibility.   I know that video games, smart phones and entertainment options are increasingly cheaper and dull the edge of hopelessness and cocoon their users in non-interactive environments that run counter to school and life readiness.

 

So what is the answer.  How can a school system, based on democracy, rise and lead the way back to greatness, or is it too late, and the collective weight of public apathy and corporate gluttony has already fatally wounded public education.

 

First of all, behavioral standards must be enforced.  I know teachers who are forced to “teach” while a child screams in the classroom, constantly bugging others, because we don’t have enough “data points” to warrant other interventions.   Again, teaching is a variation of sit down, listen and learn.

 

If a teacher is forced to “teach” as children misbehave, or as students flip through their smart phones, then the whole relationship is doomed from the start.  Learning cannot take place in such an environment.

 

Secondly, and perhaps the most important, if a child cannot read on grade level, devote most of the school day to reading and literacy.  All other skills are dependent upon the ability to read and comprehend, and therefore children who cannot read on grade level, even as we are forced to teach at that level, will not meet success, and that is where many of our behavioral issues arise.

 

There is endless chatter about what is wrong with our schools, and no one ever talks about student behavior and parent’s willingness to embrace school behavioral expectations.

The truth – the real gap in education has little to do with the achievement discrepancy between and among groups of our students.  It is has everything to do with the expectation gaps that have widened and are widening at an alarming rate between homes and schools.

It is that simple.

 

 

Truth is – behavioral issues are killing public education

OK, enough already,  Take off the damn rose colored glasses and look squarely in the mirror.

A friend of mine quit teaching three years in.  On her first day of school, teaching primary grades, a child punched her in the stomach and another child kicked her in the shins.

The misguided administrator’s comment, supported by an misguided district, supported by an misguided state education system – “You should expect that around here.  We’ll have to figure out how to help you deal with it.”

Pardon me, but WTF is that?

Are you for real.  Behavior is the single leading indicator of future success in life.  Like it or not, children who enter school academically and emotionally and socially behind are more likely to misbehave and act out simply because they are thrust into a foreign environment where they can’t comprehend what is being taught.

You might say, isolated incident.  Bull on that.  Every teacher in every school I have ever spoken to has stories such as this.

If we can’t enforce behavioral codes, then it becomes a “convincing game,” to somehow “bargain” with the children so they behave decently enough.

I know many of these young people, and I have seen them behave respectfully when the situation demands it.  Unfortunately, our school systems have somehow raised their threshold of tolerance until kicking a teacher or calling a teacher a f-n bitch is somehow part of that child’s fabric and therefore acceptable.

There are myriad reasons for this phenomenon, but none are more telling then these two.

Children are coming to our schools with outrageous behaviors, and school officials (with the lawyers’ help) have handcuffed educators who actually work with the children.

Enforce behavioral codes and learning can take place, and we can meet the children where they are, and we can intervene in all sorts of academic deficiencies.

We are teaching to an increasingly dangerous and hostile student population, and unless we, as a society, agree that school must be the one place where behavior is respectful, we are a damned and doomed society.

I am tired of hearing, “Teachers, suck it up and deal with it.”

Bullshit on that.

There is no Palace in the Shadows

There is no Palace in the Shadows

Poverty is ugly. Make no bones about it.
Entitlement too.

Elitism is ugly.
Corporate greed has been unleashed

they Kill spirits once made of steel

Nothing good occurs without expectations
And accountability.

Relationships between and among people
Are on life support in America

Pills and magic TV boxes are
Killing all that is good
About us

The boy in the old row home sleeps
Through the night and wakes to
A cold heart a cold shoulder
And a shove out the door

Onto a bus into a school
where teachers try to rescue him

The yellow man fires wildly
Into a warm cave for pleasure
And walks on out forever gone

When survival’s not an issue
And there’s nothing more to do
But sit and live with pleasure pills
A spirit rusts and dulls

The evolution from gratitude to expectation
To entitlement begins and ends with one
Great truth defiled

That something for nothing, no matter how
Well intended, always ends badly for all who are
Involved.

the road to greatness runs through
our public schools but that road has
been systematically pillaged by the elite,
ignored by the apathetic multitudes

and the saviors (teachers) are running
out of breath to revive
the growing mass of unprepared
and unmotivated children

and DOE holds fast and digs their talons in
deeper, pretending that the great Titanic
has nothing to do with sinking ships at all

Turning the Tables

In a stunning move, several Department of Educations have been placed into the “Priority Zones”

In a bold move reminiscent of the FDR and his New Deal policies, the US president has placed nine state department of educations in what he has labeled, “The Priority Zones.”

The president’s office cites years of failed reform movements, billions of dollars in wasted taxpayer money, corruption and lax oversight in the Charter movements, and an overall lack of progress in closing the achievement gaps and reaching the neediest of our children.

Each state department, regardless of size, is to be given ten million dollars per year, for the next three years, to, at least on paper, draw up a “cutting edge, bold restructuring” of the way they conduct themselves.

At the end of those three years, failure to meet adequate progress (yet to be determined), will result in further penalties (yet to be determined)

Several of the State Department heads are meeting in a secret location even as I write this, to craft a response to this massive intrusion by the Feds into an area that is truly none of their business and that they know little or nothing about. 

Stay tuned for further updates.

The Real Truth behind Low Test Scores, and the Politicians who Refuse to Embrace truth

 

 

OK, so we have test scores that show low achievement. As a matter of fact, we have reams of test scores from dozens of different measuring sticks, and they all show the same levels of achievement. And a good educator has to conclude that the children, despite their best efforts, who entered school already academically far behind their more economically fortunate peers, have been unable to close the gap.

At this point, a logical person must ask, “Why do children of poverty or children from non English speaking homes or children in high needs school continue to lag behind.”

There only two possibilities

A) Hundreds of thousands of educators in low demographic can’t teach, don’t teach and are just plain poor educators.

B) Children who emerge from poverty to enter into schools need far more intervention than a few pennies in a wishing well and a Government wielded whip to lash the backs of educators.

Given the fact that interventions demand smaller class size and more adult attention, better community outreach and a different curriculum that meets the students where they actually are, it is safe to conclude that the DOE mandated “Priority Schools,” have received none of the necessary funding that intervention demands. Therefore, DOE, once again, has missed the mark with the students, and instead,are aiming their poison arrows of blame at the educators, whom they have consciously handicapped.

Interesting but sadly so.

One must look at Charter Schools, you know the ones that claim great results in high poverty areas. There are those schools that succeed.

Truth rears up once more. Examine any of those successful Charter Schools and they have two important advantages
A) They can filter their population, expel anyone they wish and refuse services that traditional public schools must offer.

B) They have been able to raise great amounts of money from private companies to fund their schools.

Either way, successful Charter Schools should be successful. They’re playing with a loaded deck. The unsuccessful ones make a logical person scratch their head in disbelief.

OK, back to the children emerging from poverty and entering our schools. Light years behind their wealthier peers, they are typically academically behind because their parents and caregivers simply have not provided them with a literacy rich environments. It is NOT the children’s fault, but they bear the burden.

Poverty and English Language learners always has created achievement gaps. It always will and for a myriad of reasons. That is where most of the issues arise – from schools of poverty and schools where English is primarily the home environment’s language.

Only until funding follows children who emerge from poverty will meaningful change occur.

The latest change to the budget, funding 8 high end jobs in DOE that were once funded by Federal RTTT money is immoral if one believes that true change only occurs at the ground level in our schools with a litany of one on one interventions between and among parents, students and educators.

Nothing else will work.  Never has and never will.

This madness must stop.  Either the people in charge are blind to truth or blind to democracy in our public schools.  Nothing else explains their willingness and eagerness to point fingers, assign blame, stir the pot and than say, “I told you, it’s the teachers.  They can’t teach.”

What a pile of hypocrisy that is.