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My humorous thoughts about life.

"My Humorous and Helpful Thoughts About Teaching / Educational Resources for Your Classroom / Music and Random Fun"
Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tennessee. Show all posts

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#MM: Happy in Memphis

Harding School students put together this 
video showing some notable parts of Memphis.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

GBE2: Work

This week's GBE2 writing topic is work. For better or worse, here's my take on it:

For over twenty-five years, I've taught intellectually gifted kids in an affluent suburb of Memphis. I've seen dramatic changes in what and how I teach since the eighties. Don't get me wrong, the kids are great other than the fact that they never grow older. They will always be around nine or ten even though I've aged twenty-five years. Yet their parents have grown younger. When I first started teaching parents were old people, so how did they get so young? Scary!

As for gifted curriculum, it used to be if the kids were happy, the parents were happy, and administration was happy too. I only was responsible for meeting the IEP goals which I wrote. Not anymore. It's all about test scores and achievement.

Gone are the days of paper-mache´ puppet shows, fancy tooth pick bridges, or spending 100,000 fictional dollars on the stock market. Today, teaching is all about curriculum. My math lessons follow closely to what the classroom teacher is doing yet tougher. I teach reading lessons, with reading groups that cover novels. At least they still let me pick my novels–sorta. We have a list of board approved books.

I still love my time with the kids, but I miss egg drop competitions that plummeted raw eggs with goofy faces and silly names down shoots into kid designed landing pads. I can do some of the fun stuff, but by golly I better find an SPI objective before I do.

I used to start each class with a Shel Silverstein poem; now, I begin with Daily Grammar Practice. Sounds awful, but it's not bad. The kids' ability to diagram complex sentences is even impressive.

But teaching means unbelievable pressure. We've heard of teachers cheating to raise their students' test scores. I certainly don't condone this behavior nor would I ever cheat on a test; but honestly, I understand where this is coming from. It doesn't matter if you have a Doctorate degree or how long you've been teaching, it's getting to the point that your students better show growth or you could be out of a job.  Do you know of any other profession where a person's bread and butter is dependent on fickle kids?

In Tennessee, every public school teacher has a minimum of three (was supposed to be four) evaluations every year. These evaluations involve massive time commitments and paper work as administrators who are stretched thin enter classrooms to watch us teach. Plus, the same folks are scouring over value added scores. This is a comparison of students' growth on tests from year to year. Mind you, I teach gifted. This means that even though my students' test scores are already in the upper nineties, I need to show growth! However, when it comes to other measures of student achievement, I'm scored on the performance of the entire school. Ie., kids I don't even teach.

Please remember, I love the kids! I love the delight when they understand something new. And I love hearing them laugh when I inject humor into my lessons. However, I'm ready to retire because I'm tired. Typically, I arrive at school between 7:15 and 7:30 and leave sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 in the evening. Many times, I bring my work home with me once I leave. Sure I just had two weeks of vacation, but I spent several hours of it completing special education report cards, writing IEPs, making flip charts for my Promethean board, grading writing, and re-reading chapters for discussion this week. Unfortunately, the pressure on us is so intense that the fun has evaporated. In fact, when my college age daughter took a career placement test to help her find a major, the counselor said, "Be a teacher."

I said, "Don't you dare!" Those who are eligible to retire are doing so in mass... and this is supposed to improve education? What has the government done to my profession? I know my teachers from the 60s and 70s never worked as hard as I do nor did they get blamed when I misbehaved. We are one of the most disrespected professions and have even been blamed for the weak economy because we have too many benefits. I pay for my insurance, and it's not cheap!

November 1, 2017, that's when I'll be eligible to retire... unless our lovely legislators raise the retirement age.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

As I heard the latest bill to rise from a Tennessee congressman, I didn't know if I was listening to a soundtrack from Dumb and Dumber or Scary Movie. It certainly has nothing to do with Aretha Franklin's Respect. The latest: HB 1375 sponsored by Niceley is aimed at removing license requirements for teachers. And this is supposed to improve education how?

Once again the Republican congress has swooped to a new low in the name of political payback. I figure this is their insurance against the projected teacher shortage after they pass all of their punitive bills. They could go ahead and hire all the people who have lost their jobs or can't find ones due to the poor economy. It won't matter that these folks know nothing about educational methodology. After all, isn't teaching so easy that anyone could do it? Talk about another slap in the face!

You don't need a license to be a state legislator. We need a bill that specifies who can and cannot be a politician so we can get rid of dumb and dumber at the state capitol.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teacher's Unions

When I was a little girl, a teamster broke my uncle's leg and caused him to carry a cane for the rest of his life. Note I said, "Carry a cane," since he rarely leaned on it as he'd race through the family furniture store. See Uncle Melvin was in business with my father, and he made the mistake of crossing a picket line. As a result, I grew up surrounded with tales about how horrible unions were and how much trouble they caused.

As a child hearing about the cursed unions, it never dawned on me to ask, "Why were they picketing?" or "What did they want?" These were adult type issues that weren't discussed with kids. Of course I have no doubt that these men were not "nice" people. After all, the picketer attacked a business owner, but I'd like to hear his side of the story. Today all the players are gone, and I'm suddenly left to wonder what exactly happened. Especially when I find myself in a union that is being unfairly targeted by politicians out for pay back.

Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has consistently funded those who support our concerns, mostly Democrats but not all. Now that Tennessee has been taken over by the Republican party, congressmen are out to destroy teachers with highly punitive measures.

For example:

House Bill 130/Senate Bill 113 would repeal the Education Professional Negotiations Act and make any bargaining by teachers in the state illegal.

House Bill 159/Senate Bill 136
would prohibit payroll dues deduction for public employees thereby making it more difficult for teachers to maintain membership in their chosen professional organization.

Senate Bill 102
would prevent the election of the teacher representatives on the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System Board of Trustees and instead make them political appointments by the Speakers of the House and Senate. I think this bill has already passed. :(

House Bill 160/Senate Bill 139 would make it illegal for the Association's political action committee to make contributions to any candidate, thus prohibiting teachers from helping to elect/re-elect legislators who have worked to improve and protect public education.

This is just a sampling of the bills floating through Nashville; there are more. As someone with an anti-union upbringing, I'm finally seeing the other side of the coin and wondering what caused the Teamsters to picket. I plan to march too.

I promise I'm not going to break a congressman's leg, but I will wear red and head to Nashville come March 5th to rally the capital. We'll be meeting at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park and marching at noon. If you are able, please join us. We will be less violent than the Teamsters of the 1960s, but we will not stand quietly.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Budget Cuts in TN

I've heard the most dangerous spot in a children's novel is to be the dog. In Tennessee, it's to be poor, and the treatment of these two groups is similar. I read with horror that our new Republican governor plans to fix our budget by putting an ax to TennCare, our low-income health provider. This $300M cut will limit doctor and hospital visits for poor people. So if you're indigent and need a doctor, tough luck. It won't matter if the person is a child, elderly, pregnant, disabled, or needs a hospital visit--you may be sick for eight days. If you need physical therapy or a podiatrist, just buy a wheelchair because TennCare won't help you with these problems... oh wait, you're poor and can't afford one. Folks won't treat a limping dog either. They shoot it.