Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great Courses

The Great Courses explores the Western cultural tradition, as embodied in the painting of Rembrandt.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY
The Great Courses explores the Western cultural tradition, as embodied in the painting of Rembrandt.

Here is the beginning of a lovely article in The City Journal.
Great Courses, Great Profits
A teaching company gives the public what the academy no longer supplies: a curriculum in the monuments of human thought. The canon of great literature, philosophy, and art is thriving—in the marketplace, if not on college campuses. For the last 20 years, a company called the Great Courses has been selling recorded lectures in the humanities and sciences to an adult audience eager to brush up its Shakespeare and its quantum mechanics. The company produces only what its market research shows that customers want. And that, it turns out, is a curriculum in the monuments of human thought, taught without the politically correct superiority and self-indulgent theory common in today’s colleges.
 See what I mean about finding solutions if you just look?


I can follow you but
I have no idea why you're so stupid.
I'm just being snarky ...

If we're supposed to differentiate our teaching to each student in the class, why can't Guidance schedule it so that each student in each class is roughly similar.  I know that every kid is an individual and all that, but after 20-something years of teaching I've realized that they fall into groups pretty easily.

Second, if everything is so individualized and shit, why does our administration keep demanding lesson plans - shouldn't we be more flexible than that? I mean, having just ONE plan?

Finally, if that differentiation is really different, how is it that the first two things at Inservice are:
"We've got to eliminate the bell curve. There is no bell curve. We need to flatten the bell curve." and "All kids are proficient. We just have to find it."

If there's no bell curve, then why do we need to get rid of it? If we don't have one, what is the purpose of differentiating our teaching? 

What the hell does "Flatten the bell curve mean? Do we want to have equal numbers at each ability level instead of all the students at the proficient one? 

I was able to understand what incorrect psychobabble he was trying to say even though he was too stupid and confused to actually rise to that level. But all people are equal and we've got to differentiate even in Professional Development, don't we?
"I know you believe you understand what it is you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what I said is not what I meant. " ~ President Richard M. Nixon to the International Press Corps

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Located the Problem - a missing piece

See, if you look hard enough, you'll eventually find the problem. (Man at lower right, for scale.)

It holds true in education, too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

No school today ... flooding.

Usually when Vermont gets 7" of precipitation, we just laugh it off and just drive through the white puffy snow. Not so much today.  Probably not tomorrow, either.  No telling how how this will be here.  This road WAS under construction, now it's under 6-8 feet of water.  Probably washed out in places, too.


This corn is 7-9 feet tall.

The road to Mrs. C's school is blocked, too.  The lower floor of that building might be flooded, but the entire town is completely blocked. Every entrance is underwater or undermined and dangerous.

Pumpkins float.

Ex-student crossing the valley to check on his kids and his home.

Roads are flooded or cut, but everyone took the precautions necessary and stocked up on food and water.  Power and internet is still on for almost everyone around here. The crop damage will be huge. Road damage will use up these small town budgets. Hopefully those buildings which sustained damage had insurance. On the flip side, everyone seems okay.

Route 4 in Mendon is no longer usable:

The School called - Closed indefinitely. Maybe we'll open by Sept 6th.  Or not.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Inappropriate at any time in any classroom.

Darren has a piece about a new California law.
Do NOT Make Me Do This
I'm sorry your kid gets seizures, but I'm a teacher and not a medical professional, and neither do I desire a career related to medicine. If I desired one, I'd already be in that field. "Duh" just isn't strong enough.

But that's what happened Thursday, when a key legislative committee voted to move forward with a bill that would let school employees who are not nurses administer epilepsy medicine to children having seizures...
He asks, "You know what my fear is? Eventually they'll make it required that I do this." To which I reply ... "Holy crap!"

I'm perfectly fine, even happy to have an epileptic in my classroom. We simply have a class discussion about what to look for, signs to pay attention to and that sort of thing. Periodically, someone would mention that T_____ was having a mild siezure and we'd watch to make sure he wasn't going to hurt himself and continue on. If he needed to be laid on the floor (most of his were mild and he'd freeze in his seat), a couple of kids would grab him and we'd all ease him down and move chairs. No histrionics, no big deal. When he came out, we'd usually send him to the nurse to nap and someone would be assigned to bring material for him. But I draw the line at administering Diastat.

Why? Big mean bastard? Well, yes, but that's not the reason. I'm a teacher, not a nurse, and I think the nurse should do her job and let me do mine? Well, yes, but not quite it. We need an additional quoted paragraph from Darren. Read:
Labor unions argue that schools should employ more nurses because it's inappropriate to ask nonmedical personnel to administer Diastat, the anti-seizure drug at the center of SB 161. Diastat is a valium gel that must be inserted into the patient's rectum with a soft-tipped syringe.
WTF? Anything that would require me to take off a kid's pants in class to administer something into the rectum ... did anyone think this through?

Friday, August 26, 2011

College is an indicator of success, not a cause.

Talented, motivated, creative people tend to earn more than their peers throughout life. In today’s world, they’re also more likely to complete college. Colleges, for obvious reasons, claim that they make all the difference.

There’s a similar difference in earnings between Brooklynites who work in Manhattan and Brooklynites who work in Brooklyn.

For some people in some careers, some colleges may be worth the price they charge. But millions of other people are paying more than quadruple what their parents paid 25 years ago (plus inflation) for a vague credential, not much knowledge or skills, and a crippling amount of debt.
Listen well, my seniors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shortening the School Week is a bad way to save money

Or, at the very least, it exposes how much of the school day is utterly wasted.
Some South Dakota Schools Cut Costs By Cutting a Day

By: Nick Carbone, Time magazine
It'll be a three-day weekend every weekend for many students across the Mount Rushmore state. As schools start to return to session in South Dakota, more than one-fourth of students in the state will only be in class from Monday through Thursday. Budget constraints have led the Irene-Wakonda school district, for one, to hack off a day from the school week. Larry Johnke, superintendant of the district in southeastern South Dakota, says the change will save his schools more than $50,000 per year. In order to make up for the missing day, the school will add 30 minutes to each of the other four days and shorten the daily lunch break.
So they add 30 minutes to each of four days and shorten the lunch break. That's explicitly stating that Friday is "worth" only about 2 hours.  In our school, there's a lot of assemblies and early dismissals for sports but I can't see the savings in this plan.  The long weekend is nice, but somehow you've got to have time in class.  I now note that weeks with holidays, like Veterans Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day rearrange the four days around the holiday so that lessens the hit a little -- total of 151 days of school.

Seat-time isn't the only thing that is important and no one can legitimately claim that increasing it will absolutely improve education, but I can't imagine making the argument that decreasing it will help either.
But other schools in the state show that kids haven't suffered with a shortened school week. The Deuel school district in eastern S.D. switched to a four-day week four years ago, saving more than $100,000 and leading to no slump in academic achievement. In fact, Deuel's superintendent Dean Christensen tells the Associated Press that their failure rate has declined because they've used the spare day for extra tutoring.
"Leading to no slump" seems a deliberate choice of words -- was there no improvement? Are they still as crappy as they were or as great as they were? If they can drop 15% of the time, were the faculty utilizing their time wisely in the first place?  Could they have gotten MORE done and made more improvements if they changed policies to encourage academics?  Using Friday for tutoring is a neat idea but seems a stop-gap. 3-day weekends do appeal, though.

Judging from the numbers, I'd guess there are about 25 teachers involved, so each probably gave up $1000 or so.  I hope the support staff didn't lose 20% of their hours in this.  Teachers are salaried employees and can withstand that hit, but paras and staff are hourly. That would be devastating to most of them. If these savings are entirely from the pay of the staff and paras, that's just crap.

This just in, and on the "let's make the day longer" side of the argument:

Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the school day and two weeks to the year.
Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard offered a 2 percent raise for elementary teachers, if the union agrees to longer K-8 school days in the coming school year. The union had agreed to accept a 2 percent raise.  This proposal amounts to a 28 percent pay cut, teachers complain. Chicago’s school day now runs from 9 am to 2:45 pm, one of the shortest in the country. Rahm Emanuel, the city’s new mayor, made extending the school day a campaign pledge.

Interesting how a longer day at the same amount gets called a "28% pay cut". Are all those teachers working an extra job in the morning? (That's assuming that the day will now start at 7:30.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Going over to the snark side.

I have a dark side. I can't help but make fun of those unfortunate education professors and trainers who can't seem to get math right. My Google reader even has a section called "math morons" loaded with idiots of the EduProf persuasion.

Here's today's entry, which, on the face of it, might be a clever way to review until you realize how crappy this shirt is.

"Using T-shirts To Teach Math Properties by Jeremiah Dyke (Be sure to ask your local stores for donations)"
Now look at the picture a little more closely ....

"Communative?" Is that a word?  "Order of # doesn't matter." Really? Are there any restrictions you want to place on that? "Associative - Grouping doesn't matter."  Shudder. Only in specific situations. "Distributive - Use the even to each."  What does this even mean?

I don't wonder why our new teachers suck at math. I wonder why they pay him to instruct them.

"Throw away your textbook," the man says.