Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In a Failing School

Education reformers and policy makers have labeled my school a failing school. In order to save ourselves, we have implemented a number of changes.

We hired a turnaround company that has worked heavily with our curriculum, especially in math, science, and social studies.  They have forced the teachers to make in those content areas that have been quite drastic. 

They call these changes Mastery Teaching. This style requires that students take frequent five-question quizzes (checkpoints). Students can take each quiz up to three times. To earn an A, students only have to earn four out of five. The scam is that students have learned that they can skip the final question, which is the most difficult, and still get an A. 

I can no longer ignore it. The grades are grossly inflated. Students are not learning appropriate study skills. But, more will graduate, making us look better. 

Welcome to education reform. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I only want one thing this year

Right now, people around the globe are placing unreasonable expectations on the new year that is about to unfurl in front of us. I suppose I could do the same thing.

I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to exercise more so I can lose ten pounds.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to be civil to those who don't deserve it.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to keep a tidier house.
I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to read and write more.

I could sit here and proclaim that I am going to do dozens of things better.  The problem is that I think about these goals everyday.  Some days, I actually accomplish a positive goal.  Some days, not so much. Some days, I ignore all responsible adult expectations and have fun.  That's what makes this journey so frustrating and fun.

A goal for a year, the way I see it, is big and meaningful.  That's why I am only setting one goal for myself.  This goal will be my obsession and will likely alienate a few people. I will also meet many like-minded souls and maybe, together, save the state of Michigan.

My goal is simple: I will spend whatever time I can spare fighting the nihilistic radicals of the tea party and remove them from their seats in the state Senate and the state House and the the Governor's mansion.  I will knock on doors.  I will make phone calls.  I will write letters. I will go to fundraisers.  I will talk to anyone willing to listen.  I will help others find their voices.  The rising oligarchy, lead by the Kochs, must be stopped.

Are we teachers, nurses, autoworkers, ordinary people so frightening to the monied class in our society that they will spend endless dollars pushing legislation to diminish our rights and our wages?  We must be.

Come November 4, I know that I will have done all that I could.  The question is, how many of you will have walked along side of me?


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

School Isn't Out - Yet!

The final highlight of 2013 is the fact that my school has not yet been shut down by the anti-public education privatization pirates.

This is a minor miracle, though it may have to do with a lack of process as opposed to a lack of desire on the pirates behalf.

The Koch/DeVos backed right-wingers/tea baggers had hoped to push through a last minute bill that would have expanded the powers and scope of a state-wide "turn around" district, or the EAA.  Please do not be fooled by the pretty charts.  How can any statistician claim those numbers are valid when the "district" has lost 24 percent of its student population since last year?

A bill passed the state Senate but could not muster enough votes in the House.  The bill would have given the EAA authority to take over an unlimited amount of "low performing" schools (like mine), denied workers the right to collective bargaining, stripped teachers of the ability to pay into the state pension fund, and never let a school leave the EAA's control.  Sound great, doesn't it?

Would it surprise you to find out that, when pressed for information, the EAA was a little reticent to comply?  Nah, because this venture has nothing to do with helping schools.

My school has terrible test scores.  I won't even go into the myriad of reasons for our scores.  Some tea bagging troll will come in here and call me a union thug who should be fired.  Of course, my 20 years of experience means nothing and I won't get into an intellectual, factual, and philosophical battle with an unarmed opponent.    We are, however, still an official public school .  We are not out of the woods yet.

The state superintendent Mike Flanagan promised to move more schools under the EAA's authority.  Those schools will be announced in January and I suppose we could be one of them.  For now, we wait.  Also, the EAA bill will come back for a vote.  The wealthy and the powerful will not be satiated until it has been fed with more profits from the public trust.   

Monday, December 30, 2013

Take That Cancer

This will be brief because regular readers and friends already know this story.

For a while this summer, I worried that I might have cancer.  Colon cancer.  I didn't.  It was a pre-cancerous polyp.

While that notion still worries me a bit, it wasn't cancerous now. That was a huge worry that hung over my head at the end of the school year until the end of July.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mommy's Little Helper

Another positive that came out of 2013 was letting go of a stigma and helping myself out of a dangerous hole.

I've already said several times that taking medication for my depression was a good decision.  I cannot believe how much it has helped me.  I can get out of negative circular thinking more quickly than without it.  I don't burst into tears nearly as often as I was before I started the meds. My house is a little neater.  I have more energy and am not just going to bed regularly at 9:00 to escape dark thoughts.

I had been worried that my emotions would flatten out completely.  That hasn't been the case; I can still feel joy and sadness. 

I had been worried that my libido would be crushed.  That hasn't been the case, thankfully.

Things aren't perfect.  I'm still crabby at work, but there are complicated dynamics in place which cause me to shield myself.  I feel a little better able to handle those issues than I did before taking an anti-depressant, though.

Most importantly, I no longer want to kill myself. 

For that, I will live to see 2014.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Musical Magic

I did not attend as many concerts as I would have liked.  Oh well, that's the cost of austerity.  I did get to travel to see my friends Glenn Tilbrook and Simon Hanson for two concerts this fall.  That opportunity will always make my highlight reel.

Why?  Music has always been where I go to escape the world. We all need to escape from time to time.  Music moves our feet and our souls. 

My travels this fall took me to the Beachland Ballroom (where I first met Glenn) in Cleveland and to the Space in Evanston (Illionois).  I attended both shows with my friend Kriss and became friends with a couple of her friends.  That's another wonderful thing about music, it brings people together.

Hopefully, 2014 offers me a few more musical moments.

Friday, December 27, 2013

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

This post could go negative as I bemoan friendships that were lost in 2013 and the subsequent bridges I burned in an attempt to stop anyone else from hurting me.  I want, instead, to focus on the kernels of good I found in 2013, so I'd rather remember the people who unexpectedly came through and offered their love and support when I was in an emotional free fall.

I won't name anyone specifically because I don't want to put anyone on the spot. 

In May and June, I was having a nervous break down.  I was still reeling from the pain of the love affair gone bad and a good dear friend had just abandoned me after a disagreement.  I felt alone and betrayed.  Why give my heart to anyone?  Why check on someone in physical pain when that person is going to ignore my emotional distress?

Basically, I said fuck it. I entered the school year with dynamite in my soul and blew up as many bridges as I could.  If I could confirm that somebody was a weasel who ran and told administration everything -BOOM!  If you spewed the kool-aid of "reform" - BOOM! Everywhere around me - BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!  I believed I was worthless and no one cared one iota for me.

Then, I started taking medication and the fog lifted from my eyes.  I looked around me with clarity and I could see the people who supported me - even in subtle ways.  As silly as this sounds, I truly appreciate those handful of people who like every Facebook status I post.  When I closed myself inside of myself, inside of my house and kept the world at bay, they showed me that someone was listening.  You saved my life.

I truly love my friends who pulled me out of my house and invited me to their place or those friends who actually came to my house.  You spent time with me, even though you knew where I was emotionally. You saved my life.

I see now how self-destructive I had become.  I couldn't stop myself, I was too sick.  I can't repair those damaged relationships and I don't want to fix some them - they were toxic.    I have a plan to be more accessible, but on my terms.  My terms will protect me and yet allow people a little access. My terms allow me to do a little good in the world.

I'm putting away the dynamite - the only person it damaged was me.  I see that now.  As odd as it seems, that lesson is one of the best things that happened to me in 2013.