Hi there.

Mar. 16th, 2011 12:54 am
possumcowboy: (Default)
Mexican food. It's incredibly enjoyable when you eat it. Not so much when it wakes you up later. I'm crunching Tums as a late-night snack. This isn't a total gastric disaster, mind you, but I had coffee later in the day than usual and it's woken me up pretty well.

Yesterday (Monday), a playground fight broke out just as I was coming out of the building to pick up my class, at the end of recess. One of my students was involved, and is now on a five-day suspension (which is what we do for fighting). I'm bothered, as my student has been making a solid effort to keep out of trouble. My student will fight back, though, rather than just stand and take a beating. The nerve of the child! The other student involved isn't from my class, and I don't know so well. My student, though, I feel concern for. I don't want my student out of my class, even though the rules require this. I like to believe that I provide a safe environment for students to learn in, and what really irks me is when someone disrupts this by starting a fight. My entire class was unable to "reset" after the event, and the afternoon was pretty close to a total loss, academically. Today (Tuesday) when I picked up the class from recess, everyone was a-buzz due to a visit from the principal. He'd come into the area where movies are shown during rainy-day recess and said something to the effect that the grade level would be having study hall instead of recess for the rest of the school year. I tried to get the entire story from the kids, but have no official version; I needed to rush out of the building at the end of the day.

The 4th quarter has started. The final grading period has commenced. There are some students who are likely to be retained due to inability to perform at grade level. There are some other students who are likely to be retained due to unwillingness to complete work for me to evaluate. The rest are either performing where they need to be, or working so hard that I'm willing to help them get that last little bit they need to be on track.

As you know, union teachers only care about teachers, and don't put kids first. At least, that's what you'd know if the only people you listened to were politicians. If you've been listening to them, have you noticed that the union teachers who only care about teachers have been too busy in the classroom with students to get out and throw the cow dung back? Have you noticed that our "political rallies" are held after the school day or on the weekend? How many of us have driven up in a new Mercedes? Bah.

Here is me, hoping that the union teachers who only care about teachers continue to care about kids and care about the culture of learning. What a terrifying world we'd live in if all the Chicken Littles of the political world were telling the truth.
possumcowboy: (Default)
(this is attributed to an anonymous author)
The Firefighters of Hoosierville

In the town of Hoosierville, there lived a group of 25 dedicated firefighters. They worked tirelessly, protecting the citizens, defending homes, and teaching the people about fire safety. They were effective, with quick response time, and the newest, most efficient techniques in firefighting. They were proud that they were making a difference in the lives of the citizens of Hoosierville. They often spent their own time learning more about firefighting, because after all, they became firefighters to make a difference, not to become rich.
     One day, the mayor came to the firehouse to hold a meeting with the firefighters. “You are terrible firefighters,” he said. “You claim to be effective, and yet, homes are still catching fire in Hoosierville.”
     The firefighters looked at one another in disbelief. Could this be our mayor, who ran on the pro-firefighting platform just a few years ago? They felt betrayed!
     “In order to remedy your ineptitude, I plan to open a second firehouse in town.”
     At first, this seemed like a lovely idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have others to share in the efforts? They could work as a team, and the fight against fires. Some members of the community agreed that it was a lovely concept.  Soon, however, it became clear that this was an idea that would not help the Hoosierville firefighters, but harm them, as well as the community.
     “In order to help the new firehouse get off the ground,” Mayor said, “you will need to make some sacrifices. First, you must provide a fire truck for them, and a building. You will still be responsible for the vast majority of the fires, but they deserve these things. Their funds will be taken from yours.“
     The Hoosierville firefighters were appalled. Didn’t the mayor realize that this would not help reduce fires in Hoosierville at all? They needed both of their trucks, and the budget was thin already. Reducing the funds would mean fewer axes, older hoses, and less training. The Hoosierville firefighters agreed to freeze their salaries for a year, in order to keep the jobs of all 25 original Hoosierville firefighters.  The Hoosierville firefighters continued working in the community, conducting drills with the students in local schools, performing speed drills with one another, and doing their best not only to fight fires, but prevent them as well.
     The mayor held a second meeting, this time, with a new fire chief by his side.  “This is your new fire chief,” said Mayor. “He agrees with me that you are not effective, and believes in the hope of the new firehouse.”  The hearts of the Hoosierville firefighters sank.
     One firefighter spoke up, “Mayor, tell us about these new firefighters.“
     “There are five of them. Three of them have had firefighting training.”
     Now the Hoosierville firefighters were puzzled.  “What about the other two?” 
     “Oh, that,” the Mayor answered. “They have all seen fires. They have other background knowledge.”
     “But no real firefighting training?”
     “They will learn on the job,” Mayor said. “They certainly can’t do any worse than the lot of you.”
     The Hoosierville firefighters were astonished at the lack of logic shown by their leaders. How could this be happening? They had to give up one of their two trucks for a group of five firefighters, and two had no formal firefighting training at all? How could this be happening?
     Some members of the community rallied around the firefighters, understanding their plight, but some, who had house fires of their own, agreed with the Mayor and his new Fire Chief.  They protested loudly, “THOSE FIREFIGHTERS ARE WORTHLESS! GIVE THE NEW ONES A CHANCE!”
     One Hoosierville firefighter looked at another. Wasn’t that the same citizen whose daughter they had carried out of the house after he had fallen asleep smoking a cigarette?  The Hoosierville firefighters were starting to become very angry. They were good firefighters, but they were starting to believe that no one thought so. The new firehouse was not at all successful compared to the original, but Mayor was rallying the community to do the very same thing in other cities across the state. He had begun keeping track of all fires in Hoosierville, regardless of the cause of the fire. That information was used as evidence against the firefighters, although very few of the fires resulted in total loss.
  From frustration, the firefighters protested.
     He did not appear to understand. Instead, he gave the fire chief more power, although the new fire chief never stepped foot in the original Hoosierville firehouse.  The Hoosierville firefighters did their job as well as they could, but they were very disheartened about current events. They were in a sticky situation. They needed others in the community to understand just how damaging the mayor’s ideas were, but any time they spoke up, they were accused of caring only about money. How could they make the people understand that this was about keeping their families safe?
     One veteran firefighter decided to sit down and write a story about their plight, but instead, used education as an example. Surely the people would understand how damaging that could be to their students.
What if public school funds went to smaller, less effective schools?
What if public school teachers lost their voice to speak for needs at the local level?
What if funds in the public school were lost to less qualified institutions, and music and art programs had to be sacrificed?
What if legislators listened to rhetoric instead of the experienced and effective teachers that they should trust?

What if the fire chief were given additional power without knowledge, or any appeal process?
     “Yes,” the firefighter smiled. “The people would understand, then, why the Hoosierville firefighters are so upset. It isn’t about money. It’s about the families, and helping people live, thrive, and succeed. That’s why we became firefighters, after all. We just want help and support, and the respect we deserve.”

Please contact your representatives about the current legislation affecting education in Indiana, and find out more about how it will destroy your child’s public education as you know it today. Contact the author at anotherhoosierfirefighter@gmail.com . She still loves firefighting after all these years. To those of you who are firefighters of actual fire instead of ignorance, hats off to you. You do a great job!
possumcowboy: (Default)
Straight Talk from ISTA

Recently I have received several questions about ISTA’s position on various education issues that affect you as an educator.

I’m Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association and I want to clarify ISTA’s position on a few important issues like collective bargaining, teacher evaluation, merit pay and teacher tenure and seniority.

Let me begin with collective bargaining: collective bargaining is an orderly process that provides an effective and professional framework for teachers and school districts to meet, discuss and negotiate labor agreements and reconcile differences.

Since 1973, through collective bargaining and discussion, administrators have utilized the professional experiences of teachers to address relevant issues.

Teachers are uniquely qualified to engage in discussions about the working conditions that are most beneficial to improved student learning.

To deny discussion and bargaining on any facet of the education process is a missed opportunity to utilize the vast wealth of expertise possessed by Indiana’s teachers.

Opponents of collective bargaining claim that it is a large part of student achievement problems.

However data from the National Assessment of Education Progress show otherwise.

States in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower than states that have them.

Reports show that those states are among the lowest in the nation. In Indiana many of the best performing school districts are those which have had collective bargaining rights for educators for years.

The 20 top performing schools based on last year’s ISTEP results are all in school systems where teachers and administrators collectively work together under the guidance of PL 217.

So it should be clear that collective bargaining is not an impediment to student achievement. Needless to say ISTA supports collective bargaining as it currently exists.

Next, let’s look at tenure.

It’s a myth that K-12 teachers in Indiana have tenure.

What we do have is a due process procedure.

Due process is simply a means to provide a teacher who is facing dismissal with the relevant accusations concerning his or her performance and gives the teacher an opportunity to be defended before the local school board.

ISTA does not support keeping ineffective teachers in the classroom.

In fact we support the current practice that allows any teacher, regardless of seniority, to be dismissed for just cause.

No locally negotiated contract, or any state law, forbids the firing of a teacher who has been determined, through a fair evaluation system, to have performed poorly.

Seniority is a system that provides an orderly process to reduce staffing when necessary and that protects against arbitrary decisions by administrators to replace more experienced--and therefore, more expensive teachers--with less expensive ones. Seniority is not a performance issue and does not protect ineffective teachers.

We’ve also recently heard much about the “merits” of merit pay.

It is important to remember that there are many kinds of merit pay plans including merit pay for an individual teacher to merit pay for an entire school community for its good work.

ISTA opposes singling out individuals for merit pay bonuses because it fails to recognize the collaborative and professional nature of teaching.

ISTA is much more supportive of building-wide bonuses that might be provided to all staff or for schools that show outstanding improvement over time.

ISTA also questions how merit pay programs will be funded.

Especially during these difficult economic times, offering merit pay bonuses to select individuals means a reduction in resources for student learning or the reduction of educator compensation. ISTA does not support either of those funding options.

And, finally, where does ISTA stand on teacher evaluation?

ISTA strongly supports teacher evaluation.

ISTA believes that the teacher evaluation process should be fair, rigorous, consistently applied, realistic of the rigors of the teaching profession and should be based on multiple measures of evaluation.

ISTA does not support using a single criterion, like student test scores, as the sole measure of evaluation because ISTA does not believe that would provide a comprehensive nor defensible evaluation.

ISTA also believes that all teacher evaluation systems should have a clear focus on improving teaching practice to improve student learning.

I hope this brief explanation will help you better understand how your organization supports your interests on these important issues and I thank you for your work and dedication to the more than one million public school students in the state of Indiana.


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