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In reverse order.  And then a little reflection on what if anything it might mean.

The Ugly - I have a problem class.  12 failed 1st quarter, and more had Ds (they are guranteed a  C if they simply do all the work).  This week two  were put up for expulsion.  While they are out of school I have to give them assignments, in case they are not expelled.  The reasons for the expulsion are not for things in my class.

The Bad - .  In my non-AP classes I am giving them all the terms and definitions for which they are responsible at the start of a chapter so that we can try to explore things in more depth.  While doing a check of knowledge yesterday over a third of them had already lost the paper, and about half the rest had not been checking back on it during the week when we were attempting to apply the material.  This is still a work in process.

The Good (and the Very Good) -  my AP students had a guest speaker, and once (halfway through the 1st of the 3 classes) he adjusted to keeping his answers short enough, it went very well.

And the VERY GOOD?  Let me get to that in a while.  Yes, I am a tease.  I want you to keep reading.

As teachers we have to be flexible.  What works with one groups of students does not with another.  Sometimes a particular class can have a mix of students that can be destructive of learning.  Sometimes there are one or two strong personalities in the class that can set the tone for all the rest and the teacher has to figure out how to coopt that strength, because attempting to break it almost always fails if the goal is to have the class focus on learning.  Why? Because the students will often stop doing anything except to watch a contest of wills.   And besides, if the task is to help the class learn, all efforts expended on imposing the will of the adult are contrary to that goal.  One might get sullen compliance, but not the active cooperation necessary for real and deep learning.

Last year 5 of my students were put up for expulsion, for things like bringing a knife to school, scratching the face of a woman in the cafeteria, having drugs on their persons.   We have Code of Conduct assemblies once each semester, and students and their parents have to sign statements that they understand the consequences of certain actions.   It is not that we have bad kids, or at least not that many.  We have 2800 students. If one percent are really bad, that's 28.  If any three of them go off on one day, and two or more of them are in the same room, group fights can occur far too quickly - these are adolescents, some are in gangs (not that many, fortunately), and far too many lack emotional and social control.  Of the two students facing expulsion, I do not know the reasons for M___.   He is normally fairly quiet.  He is quite strong, and I have been told he has a temper.  J___ is a different story.  I have worked very hard on helping stay focused in class and do his work and he has been improving.  But he has to play the tough guy.

On Wednesday, I was on Hall Duty 7th period  (10 minutes at the beginning of my planning period trying to get kids to go where they belong).  I was out early, before the late bell, was talking with one of our security guys.  A very small student brushed J___ while walking by and he turned around and started to go after the smaller students.  The security guy and I stopped him, I told him to go to class, but a gleam of recognition came across the security guy's face.  He had seen J___ before while checking video on several incidents of strong-arming kids for money.  J___ wears his hair in a very distinctive manner, and he seemed to look like the kid in the video.  He called the principal, I told them the kid's name, since I had addressed him by name, they checked his schedule, he was pulled out of class and questioned.   He confessed.  Even though we tell them there are few spots in the hallways that are not covered by cameras, they tend to forget.  On top of which, he was wearing the same shirt as he had when captured by video.

It is bad that a kid does something like this.  I feel frustrated in that for me he had begun to turn his work around.  But this is a no-brainer.  His behavior was well outside anything acceptable, and in the incident I witnessed had adults not been present to stop him he would have slugged the kid who brushed by, probably sneak-punching him from behind.

The Bad -  it will take a while for the new approach to sink in.  It is something those students have not experienced before.  I still think it is the right way to approach things.  It was disappointing, but I have been teaching long enough to know that a change in what I expect of my students takes a while for them to learn.  What makes it bad is that a good chunk of the students are already making the adjustment, but I cannot move forward as quickly as I want on content until the others also begin to adjust.

The Good -  the speaker was Larry Roberts, who now serves as chief of staff in the office of the chairman of the DNC.  Larry got to know Tim Kaine when Kaine was running for Lt. Gov. in 2001.   Since in Virginia a governor cannot succeed himself, once Tim had (narrowly) won, he began planning his own run for governor.  Larry, who had by then chaired the local party in Arlington, wound up chairing Kaine's campaign, then serving as his Governor's Counsel.  When Kaine became head of the DNC, he still had a year to go as governor, so Larry moved back to the DC area and served as Kaine's eyes and ears in running the party.   Because of his closeness to Kaine he has also met the Obamas.  That of course fascinated the kids.  He talked about his own growing up (near Trenton and Princeton), his education (UVa and Georgetown Law). his previous work career (as one of top communications lawyers, with a practice before the FCC).  The quality of the questions was good, the kids greatly enjoyed it, and they had an opportunity to see how some of what they are studying connects with the real world.  

And the VERY GOOD -  remember my diary on Race to Nowhere?  Remember the two videos?   I spent some time in each of my classes yesterday on those videos and more.  They were especially applicable for my AP kids.  I have a few already taking three college level classes as sophomores.   Most will take at least three next year.  About a quarter will graduate with 10 or more APs.  

I started by asking questions coming from the issues addressed in the film -  how many hours of homework, how many hours devoted to athletics or other activities, whether they felt pressure by the parents to do more . . .  I then showed the clips, and asked how they connected with what they saw.  Then I explained the context of the film, and the context in which I saw it.

And then we talked.  Or should I say, they talked.  Many of them have trouble going to sleep at night.  Far too many do not really enjoy school.  I explained the conflict I feel.  I would rather not teach AP because of all the information they have to learn.  Were they simply in honors classes we wouldn't have to worry about being prepared for the state test, and we could do a lot more of things like simulations and debates and creative projects.   Part of my new approach to AP is to try help them find a better way to learn what they must without my adding to the excessive stress that many of them were feeling.

There were a couple of dicey moments, particularly in one class.  One of those, for reasons of privacy, I will not discuss here, but it required me to notify other adults and follow up with two students the next period.  We think it will be okay.  The other involved one of the most prominent students in the school suddenly admitting that s/he was so involved in doing all the activities s/he does that s/he has not really had the time to really be friends with other kids.  S/he was close to tears, and several other students responded by going over and giving this student a hug.

At the end of the period of that class several students thanked me for it.  At the end of the day one came back to tell me how important it had been for her.  The kids I saw in the hallway from the three AP classes were a lot more open, and smiling, despite the difficulty of the topic.

Perhaps because I acknowledged the reality of the lives they live.  These are adolescents, and often they feel as if the adults with whom they interact at school, in classes and various activities, see them only as the student in that class/activity, and thus are oblivious to the demands we are placing on them.  

I have been thinking about what happened in those classes since the school day ended.  My mind has rarely gone more than a hour while I was awake when my thoughts did not return to the faces, the body language, the words of some of the kids.  From my perspective, they now have little doubt that I care for them far beyond how they do in my class.  I pointed out that school should be a place where it is safe to make mistakes, because that is the only way we can really find out the limits of our knowledge, and thus correct mistaken ideas and the like.

I only have 45 minutes a day with my students.  Since I no longer coach or do musical theater, I lack the additional contact outside of the classroom that used to be a part of the relationships.  I might only have a handful of kids I both taught and coached, but those relationships fed out to other kids, and because I had some kids in two different functions it was clear that I understood they had lives beyond my class.  Perhaps I have needed to make clear my understanding, and have not done so.

The things I mention are perhaps a unique combination to this one week - after all I rarely have students up for expulsions, and two from the same class in one week is very much an extreme example.  I will have perhaps 6 guest speakers during a year of AP classes, although I am now trying to figure out how to get one at least every 3 weeks or so.  I certainly would not often devote an entire class to the kind of discussion we had in AP yesterday.  I had told the kids the day before to come with open minds, open eyes and ears, and hopefully open hearts.  Most did.

But every school week has it share of moments that are good, bad, and ugly.  In one sense, the worst or ugliest was how I felt at the end of Monday, when I wondered whether my new approach was failing already.  I had forgotten that kids needed time to adjust.

And I did give them something VERY UNUSUAL on Tuesday.  On Monday evening Rep. Carolyn McCarthy suggested to me that she thought I looked better without a beard.  I went and got a haircut, went home and shaved, and the next morning wore a top quality suit.  With my eyeglasses off and my id not on, many students walked into my class and did not recognize me.  Some were really surprised when they would ask another student "Where is Mr. B today?) and I would respond "right behind you."  It made for some humor.  Most did not tell students in other classes.  

I explained briefly some of the reasons (more than just the Congresswoman's remarks) about why I had done it.  In some classes we were able to have a brief discussion of not making assumptions based on appearances, before we got to work with a renewed focus.

One week of a teacher's school year.  A week after 5 day's off for Thanksgiving break.  A week full of highs and lows, perhaps a bit more extreme than many weeks, but also representative of what a teacher has to deal with.

I thought I would share.

Do with this what you will.


Originally posted to teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  I am surprised to see this on the Rec list (8+ / 0-)

      really.  I did not think it would have that great an appeal.  Yes, I let those I know are interested in education know about posting it.  Still . . .

      I am honored that a sufficient number thought highly enough of this, however brief its stay might be.


      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:08:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  and now that this has scrolled off (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, JanL

        I am going to have to step away and get to grading papers and tests.  I have to see how the kids did in order to plan for next week.

        I will check from time to time for additional comments.

        Thanks to those who read, commented, tipped, recommended, shared, or whatever.


        "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

        by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:41:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It's sort of sad to me... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, indres

        ... that you're surprised.

        I guess I was raised to believe that teachers are the closest things we have on earth to saints. NOT that the saints are perfect - not at all, and indeed, it's often their humanity that makes them more accessible to us than any sense of the transcendent divine. But despite their humanity, they kept getting up, kept going toward where they were called to be.

        Suffice it to say that there's no profession or vocation that I hold in higher regard than I do teachers. Public school, private school - no matter. As parents, we have an obligation to be responsible to (and for) our young people, whether we want to do it or not. You don't have that same obligation to other people's kids, and I'm sure there's some kids you'd like to stick a "return to sender" label on and send them off. But - until or unless other factors intervene (graduation - or explusion, as above) - you're there for them. Our future may be in their hands, but they are in your hands, and it seems that too many people easily forget that detail and its significance.

        As a culture, it seems we've stopped seeing our kids as kids, and just see them as future consumers, "not-yet-done" human beings, not worthy of respect for who they are today. Your writing consistently demonstrates otherwise, Ken, and although I rarely comment in your diaries, it's always a pleasure when I can find time to read them.

        Thanks for writing. More important, thanks for teaching.


        "I like to go into Marshall Field's in Chicago just to see all the things there are in the world that I do not want." M. Madeleva, C.S.C.

        by paxpdx on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:50:12 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  surprise was not because it was about teaching (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but because of the particular content contained, the time posted (9 am on a saturday, when there are a batch of regular series with strong following that are posted) and the other issues of current importance.

          I would not have been surprised had I posted it 2 hours earlier and it got on the list.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 09:10:47 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ah - ok. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Maybe it's because I live in CA, have many friends who are teachers here, and am watching our schools crumble around our feet - but I tend to think this is important.

            We knew the GOP would insist on tax cuts for bazillionaires, after all. No news there. <sigh>

            "I like to go into Marshall Field's in Chicago just to see all the things there are in the world that I do not want." M. Madeleva, C.S.C.

            by paxpdx on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 09:23:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  one of our favorite trolls strikes again (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, kfred, lotlizard, JanL, IreGyre, Lorikeet

      just received the following email from

      You teach?  Let me guess you specialize in teaching children how to think like mush headed idiots? Your AP students seem like they are mentally damaged. No wonder you teach them...Thanks for sharing your insipid life.

      The author again is dr dumb <>

      and the title of his email:  "Your students fail because their teacher is a moron"

      And my response is simple

      1. Those students who fail my class simply do not do their work.  Obviously dr. dumb is appropriate as far as his ability to read -  after all, I note in the diary that if they do all their work they are guaranteed a C.  Those getting Es or Ds therefore are not doing all their work.
      1.  Further, dr. dumb should remember that the literal meaning of "dumb" is incapable of speech, as in "dumb animals" -  only the cat currently rubbing against me makes much more intelligent - and intelligible - communications - than dr. dumb has demonstrated in the silly emails sent out to a number of us who diary here.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:14:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  and for a different perspective on teaching (0+ / 0-)

      try this from The Onion

      Just wondering if Fox will put it up and label it as an example of what is wrong with public school teachers?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 09:21:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  God Bless You, Ken (6+ / 0-)

    In my book, the week you describe entitles you to a medal. Nevertheless, keep up the worthy fight.

    •  not really - (4+ / 0-)

      while the highs and lows might be somewhat more extreme than usual, it is representative of the range of what a teacher deals with, particularly in a large, very diverse high school.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:16:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ken (5+ / 0-)

        My sister is a middle school teacher in a tough school, and we talk a lot.  

        So I do have some idea how tough a job you have to live with each and every day. I use the words "live with," because I know teaching is a 24/7 job. I am also told that it often pervades a teacher's dreams, or nightmares, as the case may be.

        Thanks again for what you do.

        •  ours not really a tough school (3+ / 0-)

          but I have 194 students (2 new this week, in that problem class - almost as if they knew two there were going to be put up for expulsion) in six classes.  That can make for a lot of time paper correcting.  And it also makes it harder to get to know them as well as I would like.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:44:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  a friend of mine posted a link for this (11+ / 0-)

    on my wall.  Thought I would share it here:


    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:25:21 AM PST

  •  Just read a news item on Gates and (7+ / 0-)

    the evaluation process.

    Seems that the fantasy is to correlate as many data points as possible, digital video a bunch of successful teachers and use those vids as lessons, AND video record all teachers so that they can be evaluated based on those 4 or 5 observations per year.

    Geek dreams.  Ugh.

    Gates is dumping money into video start ups, tech this and tech that, social scientists and teachers, all in search of that elusive gold standard -- what works in any and every situation.

    Geek dreams.

    Turns out of course that works in any and every situation is a good set of instincts, spontaneity, honesty, and the careful use of occasional deceit....

    How the hell they think they can standardize human relationships between one teacher and some 150 students a day, when the groupings of students and the fact of observation will change the dynamics, when the weather will change the dynamics....  Oh my, people really don't understand how to use data, or what data mean.

    The same kinds of issues seem to come up in the gov't intel data -- we collect so much we can't analyze it (thousands and thousands of hours of teaching vids), we can't really pinpoint the precise things that make someone worth watching or not, and we don't have algorithms for cross-watching data.

    Human interactions are immensely complex, success comes from so many models.

    And one wonders if among their correlations, they will toss in the long effects of protracted unemployment, the price of gasoline and skinny jeans and jeggings, the national teen pregnancy rate, whether or not the home basketball or football team is winning or losing, the number of delightful snowstorms as against the number of burdensome snowstorms, the medication habits of doctors/parents/social workers for the previous 12 years, the kids' weights at birth and so on.

    Each of these "data points" might need a particular kind of excellent teacher.  So I guess day by day and class by class we can pull teachers out and stick in the ones who do well with snowy winter, medium-medicated, low birth weight, losing basketball but winning football, low pregnancy rate teen cohorts......

    Geek dreams.

    Yes, Gates is used to computing power where huge amounts of data can indeed be sifted, shifted, crossed, and then miraculously pop up on a computer screen.

    BUT it takes a human researcher to figure out if the search results are the right thing.

    Regarding education, it takes a lifetime to see if you learned a damned thing that mattered.

    Ask me on my death bed if high school was worth it.  Til then, please don't fire all of my teachers for having tried to shove things in my brain.  Some things caught, some things didn't.  Some things waited til later.

    The only ones I would have wanted to have nothing to do with really knew not what they were teaching or were so profoundly mean spirited that even now I'm a little shocked.  Those teachers can be found pretty handily without thousands of hours of video "taping".

    (By the way, I wrote a reply to you on the previous diary.  I'd be interested in a reply but I understand if you want to let old diaries fade away as you do a huge amount of writing around here....)

    •  assume you are talking NY Times article (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYCee, JanL, Lissa Drake, indres

      by Sam Dillon, Teacher Ratings Get New Look, Pushed by a Rich Watcher?   I read it.  

      As far as the video evaluations, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) requires two videos as part of the submission for National Board Certification (which I have).  In that process teachers evaluate other teachers.  There is a real question whether that process could be expanded nationwide, even with only two videos per teacher.  For National Board, you submit 15 minutes.  It has to be without edits, continuous.  But is 15 minutes out of a class really a sufficient basis to make highstakes evaluations?  Gates is funding an effort by NBPTS to develop a protocol that can be used more widely.

      Gates still wants to include value-added assessments are part of the process. He refuses to let go of that, despite all the professional evidence of the problems of using it in its current state of development.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:41:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And each content area is so different.... (5+ / 0-)

        There is a problematic issue of how does one evaluate all teachers in each content area.  Styles of teaching vary, students differ, and each content area is unique.  

        I teach in an inner-city school and, across the city, our district also has schools in middle and upper-class areas.  As such, our students are very different in background knowledge, parental support, desire for engagement in school, and ability to concentrate (many of my students come to school from shelters, foster care, etc.). Can we really be measured using the same means?

        As I teach English, a core content area that is part of the NCLB testing, I have to deal with the ongoing, high-level pressure of test scores. It is these test scores that Gates wants to use as a sole means to evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher.  I will not be measured on the number of students I help to feed each day, encourage through an afterschool peer assistance program, or give a hug to when they've spent the night alone with their siblings as mom had to work a second job to make ends meet.

        Also, the electives teachers, and those who teach PE, health, and the like, do not teach in areas that are part of NCLB testing.  So, how do we measure effectiveness in those areas? Will we begin to measure how many students can do push-ups?  Or, will we count the number who understand how VD is contracted? :-)

        On this subject, I have noticed in my school some quiet rumbling between teachers in NCLB tested areas and those who teach subjects that do not face the same scrutiny.  Our math and English teachers are always being pushed and pressured to perform better each year so our school can meet AYP levels; however, there is not such importance placed upon art, health, computer technology, PE, and other important subjects.  One math teacher recently told me that she resented being paid the same as the health teacher across the hall when their levels of scrutiny and pressure were so very different.  

        An excellent English teacher, our department chair, told me this week that the pressure for test outcomes has become too pervasive and he will seek a transfer to a middle-class area school where he can return to enjoying the art of teaching.  All the discussion about measuring our outcomes, criticism of inner-city educators, and the incessant pushing for a test, when our students are coming to school with higher degrees of poverty-based issues, has left him feeling frustrated.

        The corporatists, such as Gates, feel that we can all be measured by the same yardstick.  

        Well, it wouldn't be the first time that rich people, and politicians, lack insight into the real world issues faced by those who are actually doing the work.

        We cannot solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that created them." - Albert Einstein

        by CarolinW on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:15:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The language is disturbing... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, joycemocha

        As in "value added"...

        Unfortunately, it is exactly this sort of very deliberate coinage (think Frank Luntz/"death tax") combined with all the other "reform" propaganda and the abundance of willing, often ignorant, propagandists spewing opinions in favor of such reform (other opinions arent allowed), that these terms and ideas are being swallowed, without question or thought, by even those who usually take a more critical view of on other issues where the agendas and policies are anti progressive and anti common sense. (Think Frank Luntz with a huge army of willing and effective foot soldiers.)

        Just a few nights' ago I saw Michelle Rhee (Queen of "value added" reforms) show up as guest on The Colbert Report. His back and forth with her played out in a way that allowed her to come off as a great innovative educator who wasnt allowed to work her magic. He never challenged her from the opposition's point of view. It was like that research was never done. (Just check out the laughably bogus mantra repeated at the top of her IMPACT "reform for value added performance" framework for DC schools)

        The same happened with Lewis Black, doing a bit on Waiting for Superman, where he bought into it. Recently, a guest on the Daily Show, an ed "reformer," was given a pass by Stewart (might have been Guggenheim, just cant recall). Bill Maher also gave kudos to such "reform", when it came up in the discussion.

        These are comedians, but their shows are obviously politically based and quite relevant to our times, which is why it is disappointing, given that they usually confront at least some aspects of rightwing bs on all the other issues.

        Moving from that realm to the purely political media, one is hard pressed to find ONE politician or pundit, one reporter or author or other guest who speaks to the other side of the issue, who challenges the current (rightwing, mostly) zeitgeist - much of it manufactured - re education reform. Not even Keith or Rachel or Ed will weigh in here (NBC/MSNBC has been excessively into the propaganda, devoting a week of focus on it: "Education Nation"). They have sidestepped it completely, which is telling. So, what we get is this widespread effort by everyone to add yet another layer upon layer to this gigantic, metastasizing puff pastry called "urgently needed education reform" a la Race to the Top, Waiting for Superman, Bill Gates' school experiments

        Bill Gates was just interviewed last week on This Week, by Amanpour and, again, there was no critique, no "other side" mentioned by her re his ed reforms. Instead, it value added was discussed as yet another example of billionaires who give... selfless, socially responsible billionaires (the show had interviews w/ Buffet and Turner, too, in this vein). Gates is accepted, indeed lauded, as a selfless do-gooder on education, as with AIDS, etc... and one does not challenge God Gates, for god's sake!

        Gates spreads a lot of his money around in NYC schools, in partnership with Bloomberg  - another 'caring' but clueless on ed billionaire! - putting it into charters, our computers, launching his experiments, like breaking up schools into smaller schools to get success (It failed). It seems to me that his influence with NYC DOE (PUBLIC SCHOOLS) is way too deep - I find it rather disturbing, for example, that one cannot access NYC Dept of Ed forms online on a Mac!)

        You have folks like Al Sharpton (who Obama smartly kept close to the inner fold, much like a teacher might "turn" a potentially troublesome student into their pet/enforcer), and so, he has "helpfully" been running around spreading the meme that Obama's (rightwing) ed reforms are "the civil rights issue of our time." Many parrots repeat. It has been well seeded. Another line being seeded, to make this sow's ear into the silk purse we all MUST have, is perhaps even more crassly shameful, yet no one bats an eye... "These reforms are crucial to our National Security!" George Bush's playbook. Odd as it seems, there are parallels to the propaganda effort re the Iraq War. It may be odd, but its quite obvious.

        Amy Goodman isnt mainstream, of course. She has done a great job of covering the other side of this "debate" - of challenging the status quo, seeking out and having on the voices against it, but then, if the corporate controlled media allowed voices like hers or Chomsky's or Daniel Ellsberg, we might not have had the Iraq War. At least we would have had an actual debate.

        When the corporate dogs of media hear the whistle to follow xyz, suddenly it is all lapdogs, as far as the eye can see. So it was with the Iraq War, so it is with Obama's and Duncan's corporate ed reform. And they are enjoying full bipartisan support here, too. Find me one COPper expressing discontent with this agenda? Au contraire, they praise it. It's taking Bush's policies beyond where he could, when he was in office.

        And to add insult to injury, what Obama is doing to our education system, with its implications to his neoliberal tendencies, his problematic policies/moves in other areas, usually are absent from otherwise righteous, well stated complaint lists of progressives (eg, war, torture, economy, DADT) on blogs like this, blogs that are supposed to be keenly attuned to routing out the toxic corporate and conservative doings of our ruling elites.

        You know, the policies that are in place, moving forward, and taking us (we the people) down the tubes.

        Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

        by NYCee on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:52:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Gates (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lissa Drake

      Billy boy was just owned by Diane Ravitch in an article on the Washington Post's education page. Check it out. Classic.

  •  Yeah, you cant just be one way... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Laborguy, JanL, joycemocha, indres

    People think consistency means just one way, but you can be consistently pulling out the responses that are attuned to the shifting tides of life. A day in the life...

    I would venture it's about flexibility without losing one's core. Sometimes you need to be really firm and sometimes playful, sometimes ignore, sometimes address... when it comes to students. Every age is important, every day is important. The age you are engaged with has its own very crucial needs. They often withdraw from adults (in various ways - acting out or shrinking in) as part of their growing process and the socialization aspect of their years, but therein lies the crucial part, because they REALLY need, at this age, for caring adults to be able to reach them, get them to open up, even if it's not always evident on the surface, ie, get them to THINK. Because they need to be conscious in a way that they didnt need to be before, it is the territory of this stage.

    I read or heard somewhere that a teacher makes some phenomenal number of decisions every hour or every day... the number eludes me, perhaps because of the shock over how high it was. But, from experience, it rang true.

    Hope your Thanksgiving break helped to charge those batteries a bit!   And dont be too hard on yourself - some things are just beyond our reach...  

    Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

    by NYCee on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:35:40 AM PST

    •  I am constantly reflecting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laborguy, JanL, Lorikeet

      I will be able to do less this weekend because I have a ton of papers and exmas to grade, and I need to get through them BEFORE I plan next week.  Then I also have to figure out how with my new approach I can keep the two problem students in continuity with what is going on in class.  They will be out a minimum of 4 weeks, even if not expelled.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:42:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  4 weeks -- yikes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, JanL

        I do e-mail summaries for long term absences, but these are never suspensions, they are generally medical and family emergencies.

        And I alter the grade balances to deal with participation requirements.

        Tuition is so high that the goal is always to preserve the credit if at all within bounds of academic honesty.

      •  That seems a very difficult task. (0+ / 0-)

        Unless you have (which probably isnt the case here) really gung ho parents, who want to use that time as effectively as you do, to keep the kids from fallling too far behind, it seems other than doing face-to-face tutoring, you wont be able to keep them up to speed over this 4-week period.

        Should a "progressive" Dem blog dwell in the safe zones of a tame party, or should it drive a tame party to break out?

        by NYCee on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 09:00:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  depends on kids and parents (0+ / 0-)

          the one whose offense I don't know there is a real chance he will keep up.  The other?  You are probably right, since he is not all that motivated to begin with.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 09:15:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  ha ha ha (6+ / 0-)

    God love the little devils
    Getting some of those kids to do anything is tough.  As I tell my daughter when she complains about her students, "Well they pay you for a reason."  For which I get a dirty look.
    Sometimes I thought it would be better to just be in school, year around because coming back to class after a break was hard.
    Plus now it is time for the Christmas crazies.
    I miss teaching.
    Rascals getting pickup by the police and girls spending too late a night out of supervision.  For all the heart ache and teen angst, time arches on and most of the devils move on and become quite decent people if not actually reaching their "potential".

    One reason that the job is hard is because we actually grow to love these little devils and wish them the best.
    Have a wonderful day, Ken. You lucky dog! at 1:31:20

    by TexMex on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:41:37 AM PST

  •  Ken, what are the pros and cons of.... (0+ / 0-)

    ...the wide range of classes you've been given?  In other words, both on the teacher and student sides, what are the relative merits of giving you only higher-tier, or lower-tier, or middle-tier classes?  (Assuming that your school is large enough to consider that, which may or may not be the case even with a zillion students.)  It strikes me that there are generic benefits to specialization, given the different approaches needed at each level, but the downside is pretty apparent too.

    "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

    by Rich in PA on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:53:09 AM PST

    •  Just to clarify-- (0+ / 0-)

      I don't mean the merits of giving you only one tier vs, only another, but rather giving you one tier vs. the mix that you currently have.

      "George Washington said I was beautiful"--Sarah Palin on Barbara Bush, as imagined by Mark Sumner

      by Rich in PA on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:53:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  it is considered a shared responsibility (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Massman, joycemocha, Rich in PA

      in our department, those of us who teach only core courses -  Government, US History, and World History - and have a total of 6 classes normally have a mix, so everyone gets some of the good students.  I have 3 AP classes, so I get three non-honors classes.  Others have 3 honors and 3 non-honors.   One of my non-honors is a special program for kids really interested in history and they function just a bit below honors, so I actually am pretty fortunate in the academic quality of the kids I teach.

      There are not enough kids for 6 sections of AP.  There are enough for four, and that is what the guy does in World History -  4 AP, two non-honors.  But Government is a course that has a state test, and I also have a superb track record in getting lower level kids through that test, so they want me teaching them.  I might note that during the summer I work with kids who have failed the state test at least twice, in some cases three times, have them do projects as an alternative way of satisfying the state.   I am usually able to get them through that as well.

      So the plus is I suppose that my teaching is valued (duh!) and they want to give a wider range of kids the chance to benefit therefrom.  I actually enjoy a number of the kids in the on-AP class.  Sometimes I can raise their level so they can go into honors for World History in 11th grade.  For some, I can help them make connections with social studies that have previously escaped them.  I have had some kids who were athletes that I was able to sufficiently help with tutoring (esp for SATs) that they were able to get D-I scholarships for which they otherwise would not have been eligible.

      My wife would prefer me to teach only gifted kids.  I would prefer not to teach AP, because the amount of material to be covered restricts how creative I can be.  So as in so much of life, there is a balance, and I take it pretty much in stride.  After all, AP may be restrictive, but I am good at it, probably the best person in the building to take it on, and I get some of the very brightest kids.  As it happens, many are also student leaders.  Thus even though those 3 classes per year represent less than 1/6th of the students in each cohort, I wind up teaching about 50% of the kids who are class officers, SGA officers, and in recent years most of the Valedictorians and Salutatorians -  for the past two years, all 4.

      Those kids are bright enough to keep me on their toes, and perhaps I am able to stretch their thinking and their skills some?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:05:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Reino, JanL

    Thanks for your well written and insightful comments.  Your words serve to remind all of us that teaching is often frustrating and rewarding at the same time, but always demanding.

    These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

    by Laborguy on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 06:57:58 AM PST

  •  podcasting? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm curious, Ken, about your opinion of podcasting. I teach in a medical school, and only about 20% of the students attend lectures. Instead, they listen to us on podcast at 1.5 speed.  Now, we are setting up 2 satellite campuses in more rural parts of the state, and those students will only have access to podcasts. Is this teaching? I need to see their faces, even when there are 200 in the class, to tell if they understand what I'm saying.

    •  possible to do remote learning w/o podcasting (0+ / 0-)

      podcasting is one-way communication.  While it works for some content, and for more skilled students, it is still probably less effective than a situation of two-way learning, which is quite possible with high-speed internet connections.

      I could teach a small number of students through podcasting, providing the podcasting was paralleled with a blog or a NING where students could discuss with one another, and where the level of two-way communication would not be so voluminous that I could not handle it.

      In professional situations, I have been in Elluminate sessions with more than a hundred people.  That provides a way of accomplishing more effective remote teaching/communication.  I have both been a presenter in such situations and also a member of the audience.  Follow the link to see what is possible.


      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:25:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Someone has to be there with Elluminate (0+ / 0-)

        Our administration wants to use our podcasts indefinitely. No one has to be there. One entire course (microbiology) is given by podcast only, and many classes are "given" by faculty who are out of the country. We assume these podcasts will be used for years after we retire. No salaries will have to be paid, except for a few who teach gross anatomy or physical diagnosis.  Those will be adjunct, part time faculty.

  •  You're a good man, Charlie Brown (NT) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    •  all depends on which Charlie Brown (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zerelda, JanL

      the guy who twice ran for Congress in CA-04, and is now at the VA?  He is a good man.

      The Peanuts character?

      Or how about this one:

      Now, he's not necessarily a "good man" is he?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:27:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many adults can't grasp the pressures (5+ / 0-)

    some kids experience. I see it a lot here in China, especially with seniors in high school, but it's true for all students who have parents with high expectations.

    Add extra pressures like holding down part-time jobs, taking care of younger siblings, and (for a few) being the responsible adult in a troubled family, it's a wonder some kids hold it together for so long.

    Your anecdote about the girl breaking down in tears because she couldn't hang out with her friends reminded me of all the students I've had with similar problems. It's not just a question of being a bookworm or a nerd, but of isolation from their peers because of scholastic and parental pressures to be on top, all the time. Ace the SAT. Go to an Ivy. Get a 4.0 average.

    Meanwhile, at the bottom end, you've got kids with no parental support and probably lingering problems in knowledge and skills, who are probably neglected at school, too. Instead of too much pressure, they get none. No expectations. Like they aren't really worth the trouble.

    And in between, where most of the students are, you've got a little of this and little of that. Thirty or so individual cases to shepherd through (in our case) 4 years of high school or college.

    Another commenter got it right. Bill Gates has his heart in the right place, but he Just Doesn't Get It. Tech has its uses, but teachers relating to students is really where it's at, baby.

    The gentleman values harmony, not uniformity; the small man values uniformity, not harmony. -- Confucius (early pundit)

    by wheatdogg on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:26:47 AM PST

  •  The curse of youth/age (0+ / 0-)

    20-year-older versions of some of the kids you describe are going to deeply regret their high school years (the ones who are criminals or who aren't criminals but simply do not bother doing work).

    At 31 and seeing a wide variety of people in different economic circumstances, I know the value of not screwing around, working hard in school, etc. I'm not sure I knew it at the time, but probably did a lot more than some of the other kids you describe.

    When you are older, you regret not taking advantage of opportunities available when you were younger.

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:40:10 AM PST

  •  Why didn't guest speaker address "bad" students? (0+ / 0-)

    It sounds like they are unmotivated.  Maybe they don't get the connection between what they are studying and the "real world".

    As with all educational tracking systems, it looks like the excellent students get even more resources, while the confused, lost or unmotivated students get less.

    What do you think would have happened if you had asked your guest speaker to spend a few minutes with the bad (but not ugly) students?

    •  simple explanation - (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, joycemocha, HamdenRice

      time -  I could get him for around two hours.  I could not on short notice (a) get a room large enough to hold all or most of my students, and (b) get the paperwork done in time for an in-school field trip.  My 3 AP classes are 45 minutes with a 5 minute break, back to back to back.  here's my schedule:

      1st  regular government, special program 8:30-9:20
      2nd  regular government  9:25-10:10
      3rd - lunch
      4th - AP Gov  11:05-11:50
      5th - AP Gov  11:55-12.40
      6th - AP Gov  12:45-1:30
      7th - planning
      8th 0 regular government 2:25-3:10

      Sometimes I get guests who can stay the whole day and talk with individual classes.  Sometimes, as when I had Mary Beth Tinker of the case Tinker v Desmoine, we planned it far enough ahead to the get the auditorium and open it up to classes from other teachers as well.

      And sometimes I will have a guest speaker for one class, usually a parent for that class.

      This particular speaker was more relevant to what we are studying in AP rather than regular government, but had I been able to get a larger room and do the paperwork, I would have opened it up to all the students.  As it is, I found out on Monday that I could get him for Thursday.  I have similar problems at times with Congressmen, because it can make a difference if there are going to be votes.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 07:47:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  For years this sentence you used..... (5+ / 0-)

    As teachers we have to be flexible.  What works with one groups of students does not with another has been my mantra, whether on the blogs, talking to potential teachers in a graduate course I taught, or just in discussions with colleagues.

    THIS is the part many do not get.  Teaching is much more of an art than science.  All the research, all the science pedagogy being pushed by NCLB (i.e. the insistence in all teachers following the set routine put out in the teachers' manuals of all the intervention type books published and sold to the schools to match the "testing")assumes there are no differences in students.  Thus the "no excuses" memes to teachers who work in low socioeconomic areas.

    The mentality that has been pushed by book makers, test makers, and the "charter" school advocates is that if only the teacher would follow the prescription all would be well.
    Teacherken and I and anyone else who has taught for years knows this not to be true.  A lesson, a unit, an assignment that was a great success with one group does not necessarily work with all groups....unless you are training (not teaching) widgets, unless you are programming (not teaching) robots.

    The GIGO (Garbage in, garbage out) effect is for machines, not children.  These extends to "good stuff in, good stuff out".  

    Some years are tougher and more frustrating for a teacher.  Or some weeks.  Or some days.  All kinds of variables exist in the life of a human being, and whether we choose to accept it or not, teachers and students are human beings, not machines.

  •  Thank you for this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, joycemocha

    Perhaps because I acknowledged the reality of the lives they live.  These are adolescents, and often they feel as if the adults with whom they interact at school, in classes and various activities, see them only as the student in that class/activity, and thus are oblivious to the demands we are placing on them.

    I work with two widely different populations of teens in two different contexts. By official objective measures I am quite successful, but these measures don't really assess what matters to me as a mentor, advocate or teacher.

    It is my belief that the inability of adults to listen to what teens are actually saying, to realize that at the end of the day they are the stakeholders in their own lives, and to build on the strengths and assets they currently posses (rather than simply treating dysfunctions and handwringing over short-comings) drives many of the "failures" we decry.

    I actually sat in an administrative meeting at one district where I work where a senior administrator--cabinet level--said that she was "not here to worry about student experience," and not a person in the room blinked except the two parents who were present.  6 school administrators, not one dissenting voice.

    I left feeling disappointed and even more committed to listening to kids.

    •  while we have valid concerns (0+ / 0-)

      about society as a whole and the economy, should not our primary focus start with the kids before us?

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:09:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and at the end of the day, isn't every decision in some way either contributing to or detracting from the goals we claim to share?  

      •  Hi Ken (0+ / 0-)

        Several of us are curious what you think of this diary so I thought I'd drop you a not to flag it, I think it's worthy of your attention.


        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:16:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  scanned it quickly (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko, wheatdogg, BlueDragon

          sorry really do not have time for a detailed and careful reading.

          On first scanning, there is enough I agree with that I rec'd it.

          however, as far as Chinese education, they are in the process of starting to change it -  probably won't show up at university level for at least another 5 years, but trying very hard to provide room for creativity and possibly even deemphasize the testing regimen, at precisely the time we are moving in the opposite direction.

          Similarly, we are insisting in expanding seat time at the same time the South Koreans are reducing theirs.

          Go figure.

          "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

          by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 08:29:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think it will take time (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            For Chinese to abandon the exam system, this is a 4,000 year plus tradition. But there is, now, a strong movement to take a more open approach to teaching particulary above primary.

            Howver, unless we abandon our system of writing, a fair amount of rote memorization and drilling will always be part of our basic education system by necessity and I'm not sure that is a bad thing because it promotes disapline.

            My daughter enters kindergarten next year and already learning both Chinese and English.

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 03:41:34 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  how do you get to 4,000 years? (0+ / 0-)

              I thought the originator of the system was the man the West improperly calls Confucius, and he is a product of the Axial Age, less than 3,000 years ago.

              BTW, in the book Collateral Damage by Nichols and Berliner, they offer evidence of 1600 years of cheating on the Chinese civil service exams.

              "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

              by teacherken on Sun Dec 05, 2010 at 09:07:47 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  There must be more difficult jobs (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, joycemocha

    than teaching K-12, but I do not know what those jobs are.

    Suspension and expulsion harm the suspended or expelled student. Unfortunately society will not give those students what they need, a different home environment, more adult supervision, counseling, and private instruction.

    My daughter attended a fairly rich suburban high school in Montgomery County. Yet, a brother of one boy brought a gun to school. Girls got into a physical fight in the cafeteria. Disruption was not uncommon. Classes for those who needed extra help were constantly disrupted by students that needed the help. Despite all this my daughter is doing well in the honors program at Frostburg Stat University.

    I believe conditions in Montgomery County are better than in Prince Georges. Yet your stories would not surprise me if you were teaching in Montgomery County. I am saddened by the ugly none the less.

    I am pleased you are sticking to trying your new teaching methodology. I believe you will help more students.

    I admire you teaching AP classes, but I admire you teaching the difficult to teach classes even more. Keep on trucking. I hope to see more on your initiative next week.

    Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

    by LWelsch on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 12:11:06 PM PST

  •  cost (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, joycemocha

    It will cost a lot of extra money to "civilize" M and J--and it must be done.  If not, they will hurt others--and cost society even more money.  If not, there's a good chance there will soon be little Ms and Js in pre-school.  The cycle will begin again.

    Be thankful you work in a good school, I could tell you horror stories from the South Bronx that would blanch both M and J.  And I had friends teaching at Spofford juvenile detention center--those stories would scare Stephen King.

    Hardest part of teaching is taking the kids home--mentally-- when your not at work.  To a teacher, they are "our kids."

    Apres Bush, le deluge.

    by melvynny on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 12:48:49 PM PST

    •  oh some of my "wannabes" (0+ / 0-)

      have no idea what a real tough guy is like, I know.

      "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

      by teacherken on Sat Dec 04, 2010 at 03:47:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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