Monday, November 24, 2014

Violence begets violence

As I sit here watching Dancing with the Stars after listening to the Ferguson verdict, the following quote keeps playing in my head.   

"Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love."  ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr 1958

Dr. King knew what he was talking about; there's a reason why he advocated peaceful protest.

There's a reason why Gandhi embraced non-violent protest.

It works.

Violence just causes more problems and solves nothing.

I hope the people of Ferguson remember that.

I wish everyone understood that.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Confessions of a TV Junkie: Dance Moms

I have a confession...I thoroughly enjoy Dance Moms.  It is a total guilty pleasure for me.  As a dancer, instructor and coach, I have a total of seventeen years of dance experience and I watch almost all the dance shows.

This an over the top, hot mess and I love it.  The studio owner is always yelling and the mothers are always fighting.  It is crazy...but so fun to watch.  I just wish they showed more dancing.

Now I would not in a million years sign a child up for dance at one of the studios featured on this program; nor would I agree to this type of "reality" program.  (Seriously, it has to be scripted.)

That being said...I have thought some of the things that the loud mouth studio owner Abby says.  That would be the difference...I thought it.

This show does make me appreciate the overwhelming majority of the dance moms that I have worked with during my tenure as a dance coach.  The nightmares like the mothers on this show...very few and far between. did inspire a t-shirt design that my girls loved.  After a particularly rough year in which a mother repeatedly called the principal to complain about her child's spot in formations, my girls ran around dance camp with "But my mom thinks I belong of the front row..." emblazoned across the front of a t-shirt. 

Now I have to go because my guilty pleasure is on Lifetime.  Two girls are dancing to the same theme; another ran off the stage in tears and the preview showed the studio owner leaving the competition early.

I have to see what happens next!

Saturday, March 31, 2012


We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights. ~Felix Frankfur

As I watched the revolutions erupt around the world, I marveled at the power of social media and mass media.  Most notably was the use of Twitter & Facebook by Egyptian revolutionaries.  Not only did these sites allow freedom fighters to rally but they also allowed the world (at least the free world) to watch it unfold. Amazing. 


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Classes on Computer

So I'm teaching summer school...and nearly all of the summer school instruction is through a computer program called APEX.  The students log on to their individual courses &everything is on the computer.  They are supposed to read the material and  then complete computer scored quizzes & tests.

It is such a joke.  They may be earning course credit but they are not learning a thing.

Many of them  just skip through the units to the quizzes & tests without reading any of the material--instead they just "google' the question.  Now if they read through the results to can some understanding of the original question, it would be acceptable but they don't do that.  They expect the exact answer to pop up on screen and when it doesn't, then they just guess. If they fail, then they just push reset or ask the APEX proctor to reset it and then they just repeat until they earn a 60%.

One young man asked for my assistance with one of his government questions; he was being asked to define a term and it was one that I didn't recognize.  I asked him if he had looked it up.  "Yeah, but it said something different from those." He replied, pointing at the multiple choice options on the screen.

I had him "google" it once more.  As he had stated, the results paged didn't show the answer but when I had him click on one of the results and read through it with him...lo and behold, we found the answer,  He grinned sheepishly at me and said, "that's why you were saying we had to read, wasn't it?"  At my nod, he hung his head and chuckled.  However, I'm not sure that he'll remember that lesson when he's working on it at home this evening.

When I caught one just randomly guessing her way through Algebra I, I asked her how she planned to be successful in Algebra II.  "Oh, if I fail it, I'll just do this again next summer."

So then I asked about college.  How does she plan to pass her college math courses if she doesn't have the foundation from high school?

Her response:  "Oh, I'll try in college."

We're obviously missing some steps somewhere.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Goodbye Spring Break; I'll miss you.

Today marks the last day of spring break.  It always goes by too quickly.  Tomorrow--I go back to browbeating my seniors all the way to graduation and I go back to transforming the freshmen into sophomores.

Only 33 days to graduation and somehow I have to figure out how to condense the remaining curriculum into that short amount of time.

Of those 33 days, five are for state assessment and three more are for final exams.  That works out to 22 more class meetings for the seniors before their final exams and since we're on an alternating block, that's 11 more class meetings for my individual seniors.  My freshmen only have 26 school days which works out to 13 class meetings prior to final exams.

The seniors have at least one more paper to write and two more novels to read.  The freshmen need to finish Romeo & Juliet, read the Odyssey and some non-fiction selections as well as tackling their first research paper.

I'm afraid that I'm going to have to cut some stuff...which I hate.  They're not going to get to watch Romeo & Juliet this year during class.  They're going to be disappointed.  I currently have them completely hooked on Shakespeare.  Maybe we can do an after-school movie day or something.  I usually show the modern adaptation and we have a very interactive viewing experience.  I usually have to pause the DVD for them to rant on the changes the director made. It is always enjoyable to see what they know--beyond what is on the test.

Plus the five days of state assessment break up the instruction which is difficult for the students.  I'm really worried about how the freshmen will handle that with the research paper.  This is the first time they've had to write a research paper and they are terrified of it.  They've watched the upperclassmen stress over their papers and so it makes them very nervous. I'm pushing to get the bulk of it complete before the testing window but I don't want to overwhelm them.

The seniors aren't tested during the spring assessment and so they just play for five days--which makes it difficult to get any work out of them for the rest of the term.  By that point, they have one foot out the door. I save the fun & competitive units for them. 

Thankfully this year, we're not dragging the assessment out over two weeks.  In previous years, administration feared that condensing the testing into a week would result in a drop in scores. I'm not sure why.  In most cases, the students just want to get it over with.  They've had test prep drilled into their heads all year; they've already endured a fall, winter & early spring testing window. Dragging it out just makes it worse.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Would somebody tell me why...

Would somebody tell me why everyone seems to think they can do my job--especially when these people are not qualified to do my job?

In this era of education reform, everyone seems to have a solution to America's education ills and recently the trend has been blame the teacher.

We have Bill Gates suggesting that states eliminate the pay increases that teachers receive for earning their master's degrees.  Mr. Gates proposed this as a way for states to balance their education budgets.  Clearly he does not realize that teachers are not the ones making big money in education. Clearly Mr. Gates does not realize that the pay increases are not enough to pay off the student loan debt incurred to earn the master's degree...and the Commonwealth of Kentucky requires all of its teachers to earn a master's degree.

We have all these people vilifying teacher tenure and teacher unions, claiming that these institutions exist purely to protect "bad" teachers.  These institutions exist to prevent a principal firing an experienced educator unjustly.  Trust me, there are protocols in place to remove incompetent teachers--not to protect them! If an incompetent teacher is allowed to remain, it is not because of "union" protection. 

We have politicians attempting to balance state budgets on the backs of teachers and attempting to evaluate teacher quality by student test scores.  These same politicians and pundits are advocating merit pay even though studies have proven that this system is not effective and it implies that teachers are withholding their best strategies until they are paid more.

In actuality, teachers turn themselves inside out trying to help their students be successful on more than standardized tests.  We try to teach them the skills and the knowledge that they need to succeed in life once they leave our buildings.  We encourage them to think for themselves and make informed decisions.

In response to all the hard work, we are not treated as professionals.

We have local media outlets implying that we abuse our sick days.  We may have more sick days than other professions but we are also exposed to countless germs.  When sick children come to school, they expose not just their classmates to their illness but also their teachers. It is actually more work to be absent than it is to work.  We do not always get a sub who knows our subject matter, so I have to make sure that whatever I leave for my students to do--not only fits with what we are doing in the classroom but also can be explained by the sub.  My directions have to be extremely explicit. It is simpler to just go to work and do it myself. I only miss when I physically cannot do the job or when I run the risk of infecting my students.  Most teachers even go so far as to schedule annual doctor's exams during summer break or spring break.

We have to tolerate cracks about how "it must be nice to have all summer off".   In actuality, we do work in the summer.  It is in the summer that we do many of our professional development trainings (which are mandatory).  It is during the summer that we revamp lesson plans and clean out our classrooms. Teachers who coach fall sports work all summer preparing for the upcoming seasons.  Some of my colleagues teach summer school; others have additional jobs during the summer, so they can support their families. 

The day of a teacher...
We get up early to be at school for morning meetings.  We have hall duty or bus duty or parking lot duty. We teach for eight hours and then attend more meetings.  We run practice sessions for extra curricular activities and host after-school tutoring.  We attend our students' plays, ballgames and concerts. When we finally make it home, we have papers to grade and lessons to plan--in addition to daily chores like cooking & cleaning.

All we ask for...a fair wage, adequate benefits and some respect.  After all, we are shaping future leaders. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Weight Watcher's Wagon Part II

I'm still on the Weight Watcher's wagon but I'm not where I want to all.  
Before the school year resumed, I vowed to stay on track and that has not gone so well.  When I look at my weight tracker for the past year, I realized that it is during the school year that I struggle to lose.  Not a surprise.  High stress and limited time result in poor eating habits and minimal exercise.
I've been using Christmas break to try to get back in the habit of working out--even though I've been eating an insane amount of junk.  Cookies, fudge, pie, Christmas candy...resulting in a five pound gain. I'd hate to think how much I would have gained had I not been hitting the gym regularly.
My gym is beginning its Get Movin' Challenge after the first of the year and a group of us at work have signed up for it.  Hopefully this will help me stay on track with my weight loss and stress management.
Wish me luck.