education

Uncommon Core

The Common Core is the new traveling circus act that will save public education. The standards were the initiative of Achieve, a group of governors and corporate leaders, that felt students were not being adequately prepared for life after high school.

Notice that the profession of teacher is absent from that group. No biggie.

The majority of states have adopted the Common Core Learning Standards.

In New York State, these new standards were adopted the same year the new teaching standards were implemented. If you didn’t know, teachers are now evaluated on how their students perform on tests, in break dance competitions, in skeet shooting tournaments, in HVAC repair and the Hunger Games.

In other words, teachers were a bit stressed. But thankfully the state stepped in and paid $12.9 million to outside corporations to develop lesson modules around the Common Core.

What’s even better is a single lesson unit is only 300 pages long and includes such helpful tips as how to speak to little humans.

For example, let’s say you want your students to look at a chunk of text, the module will direct the teacher or actor to state: “Look at this text. What do you notice about it?”

All this time, I had been saying “Tree! I like pretzels crushed in my hair. Pigeons dance sometimes” when I’ve wanted students to look at a chunk of text. Had I known that I needed to actually say “Look at this text” I could have saved a lot of time, time I spent instead on brushing pretzel crumbs out of my hair. Thanks corporation!

The real gem of these multi-million dollar modules is the content. It’s as if the content was written by people who had never met a child or been a child themselves or been in a school or taught anything other than a hamster how to bubble in a state assessment.

For example, the second grade module wants second graders to be able to “describe the basic principles of Hinduism and Buddhism” and “describe the teachings of Confucius.”

That is fucked up.

–Confucius

For a point of reference, second graders are typically 7 years old with only a tiny bit of exposure to world religons that they may have gained from reading Green Eggs and Ham. That is totally a Daoist tract.

If you asked a 7-year-old to describe the basic principles of Hinduism, the 7-year-old will likely respond: “My dad’s birthday is in March.”

The module for first grade wants first graders to “explain the significance of gods/goddesses, ziggurats, temples, and priests in Mesopotamia” and “explain the significance of the Code of Hammurabi.”

For a point of reference, a first-grader is typically 6 years old. First grade is usually when students learn how to read possibly by reading Dick and Jane Violate the Code of Hammurabi. 

To expect a 6-year-old to “explain the importance of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and the use of canals to support farming and the development of the city of Babylon” may be a bit of an overreach considering that 6-year-olds still think Abraham Lincoln is alive and is my father.

The kindergarten module is about genocide and its implications on a global scale.

I’m joking.

The module for kindergarten has the expectations that kindergarteners will be able to  “describe the purpose of the Declaration of Independence as a statement of America’s liberty” and “explain Abraham Lincoln’s role during the U.S. Civil War.”

For a point of reference, a kindergartener is typically 5 years old; some start the school year at 4. In kindergarten, children start to learn the letters and sounds of the alphabet, like D is for the Declaration of Independence, a social contract that clearly delineated the rights of a people choosing to govern themselves and B is for barn.

In kindergarten, students practice the skills of cooperation and sharing. They hold hands when they walk to the nurse’s office and generally have difficulty finding their classroom when they drop their books off at the library. They usually don’t discuss the horrors of slavery, the dissolution of our country over that institution and Lincoln’s decision to go to  war to save the union

But what the fuck do I know? I’m only a teacher.

Speaker7 had to refer to Google heavily during this post having little to no familiarity about the Code of Hammurabi or the principles of Buddhism. Her elementary school teachers really sucked. All they did was taught her how to read, write and arithmetic. 

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Keep on Pushing Me Baby

Did you know that you can give a soon to be 3-year-old an IQ test?

You can.

And when that almost 3-year-old would prefer to hit a balloon around a room rather than answer inane questions, that nearly 3-year-old earns the distinction of “borderline.”

Yes, my son scored in the 2 percentile of “total bullshit bullshittery” category on his IQ test. He was average in other made-up areas and low in I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter Hoopery. I have a glisteny report that details it all and it sort of tastes like margarine.

Three years ago today, my son was born. That day was going to be a gorge-athon of hamburgers and french fries when my water unexpectantly broke and I underwent an emergency c-section because my kid was breech. He was a month early. He came out in the shape of a potato head with the same spindly arms.

He had trouble lifting his head. He didn’t walk until 18 months, but fuck if he didn’t know all the letters of the alphabet by 2.

We got on it early. By six months, he was in physical therapy. Six months ago, he started occupational therapy to help his fine motor skills. His therapists say the same thing: “He’s smart as get out; he’s just low muscle tone.”

Because of his birthday, he’s being moved from the county to the local school district, and this is why he’s suddenly “bordeline” and in the words of Madonna, it’s like I’m gonna lose my mind.

Even the IQ administrator stated the test doesn’t adequately gauge intelligence. So why are we doing this exactly?

Tomorrow he has his first committee on preschool special education meeting. The day I learned about this meeting, my “borderline” son read the word “toys” in a new book.

Something seems a bit off. In the same way, giving every child the same state assessment to judge a teacher’s ability seems like an inadequate form of measurement.

Tomorrow will be a success if I do not throw a chair through a window.

Teacher Depreciation Week

For a few short, fun months, I teetered tottered with the notion that I could lose my job. I went through low points where I toyed with the idea of auditioning for  The Real Housewives of Hooverville, and high points where I lost consciousness and dreamt that I was gainfully employed as Donald Trump’s hairpiece.

The local board of education decided that my job had some value to elementary students and added it back into the school budget, and the public voted in favor of it so I will soldier on as an elementary librarian–at least another year until I am laid off again and the cycle repeats like a Head-On commercial until I actually need Head-On.

It is a good time to be a public employee especially a teacher. Society seems to really revere teachers. Wait, is revere the right word? Oh right. . . the word I’m thinking of is revile.

This guy knows what I’m talking about:

et tu, Grandpa?

Teachers are the worst, especially that one who taught me how to read and that jerk who taught me how to write and that ass who taught me arithmetic does not actually begin with an “r”. I hate all of you.

Test scores are low, schools are failing and the tator tots taste like pencil shavings–and it’s all the teachers’ fault.

My school was placed on the needs improvement list this past year, along with a bunch of other schools in New York State, when the state decided to arbitrarily raise the threshold for passing the state tests. This happened after the students took the test, and 80 percent passed. Now 50 percent did. In your face teachers!

Here’s the thing with state tests. They’re awesome. They are created by corporations that get million dollar contracts from states, which then have less money to give schools. And it’s a one-size-fits-all assessment tool. It works really well because all students are the same.

Here’s the thing with actual schools. As teachers, we are told to tailor our instruction so if you teach 4th grade and have a student who reads at a 1st grade level, you give the student material at his reading level. Then comes state test time, and that student takes a test at a 4th grade reading level, and for some reason he bombs it. Why? The teacher sucks.

Student performance on these tests will be a huge chunk of the new teacher evaluation system. This seems like a good idea in the same way my performance on this blog is reflective of WordPress, and my somewhat high cholesterol speaks volumes about my doctor’s abilities.

As of yet there is no state test to assess a student’s library ability, but give Pearson Education time and I’m sure it will come up with one for the the low, low cost of $50 million. And if my students cannot successfully place Archery for Fun in the right Dewey Decimal range (it’s 799.3, stupid) or spell the word Caldecott then I guess I’m a terrible librarian.

Oh well, I should look on the bright side. I’ll likely be laid off next year.

The Brain is a Battlefield

You know how you’re belting the words to Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield while on the toilet, and your husband asks you: “Hey, wasn’t that song in a movie?”

And you reply: “Yes, yes it was. It was in the Legend of Billie Jean starring the sibling sensations Helen and Christian Slater plus the voice of Lisa Simpson, Kingsley Shacklebolt.” And then you realize you couldn’t name all nine U.S. Supreme Court justices even if the condition of your brother’s scooter depended on it. You know there’s that jerk Tony and that other jerk Little Tony and that jerk who allegedly put pubic hair on a Coke can, and some dames.

This is me. This is the state of my brain. It is packed with useless knowledge and devoid of any real value.

Hey did you know that Ricki Lake was in a movie with the villain dude from Some Kind of Wonderful and they each ate bags of sugar babies so Ricki thought that meant love and the movie was called Babycakes? No, well it’s true because 15 years ago I watched it 735 times on Lifetime.

What was the War of 1812 about? Um…….sugar babies famine? Too many sugar babies? I have no sugar-babies clue.

There is so much I don’t know. Here is a short list:

  • Any dimensions – When you say “It’s about 2 square miles long” I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about. I might look like I do because I’m nodding my head and saying “Yeah, okay. Yeah” but that’s because I’m trying not to look stupid.
  • Any sewing in any capacity – How do you hem pants? Beats me. I think they should just make clothes with a series of perforated edges, and you can just tear off swatches until you get to your size. This is why I don’t buy pants and wrap a tablecloth around my bare legs.
  • Geography – Believe me, I’m with you public school teachers, when you lament that kids don’t know nothing ’bout geography. When you say “They don’t even know where Idaho is,” I shake my head in disgust right with you–but here’s the thing. I don’t know where Idaho is either. I know it’s in the United States and that it’s oddly shaped and potatoes are grown there. That’s all. Is it by Wyoming? Maybe.
  • Constitutional amendments – I don’t even know how many there are. I know it’s likely more than 19 because the 19th amendment gave women the right to vote as their husbands tell them. I know there’s that one about speech and guns and…um…the right to paraglide?
  • My real bra size – I can’t believe that the underwire is designed to cut into the skin. That can’t be right, right? I know I must have been sized up for a bra at some point, but I have no memory of it. I can tell you the number of Ralph Macchio posters I had on my wall when I likely went to get fitted for a bra. Forty-seven.
  • How to adjust the heat in the house – One shouldn’t need a Phd in heating, ventilation and air conditioning to turn the heat up, but when I press the up arrow to turn the heat up, nothing happens. And then I die from hypothermia
  • Spelling – I can spell some words–like I spelled all the words correctly in this sentence without the WordPress autocorrect. But there are lots and lots of words I cannot spell. Initilizie. Statisitic. Preemplotry. Buttpluggs. And the autocorrect didn’t even step up to help me.

I swear what I don’t know could fit 10 square miles of Idaho farmland if I knew what that looked like.

Here’s what I do know. I know the cute little kid from The Christmas Story, the one who stuck his tongue to a frozen pole, did porn. I know Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, is a scientologist.  And I know verbatim the exchange Judd Nelson has with himself in The Breakfast Club: What about you Dad? Flip you! (I watched the edited for TV version a lot)

I recently gained knowledge of this picture:

We are doomed.

When someone asks “Hey, what was that Gettysburg Address rap all about?” I will respond: “I don’t know, but I do know that one day in April 2012, Kayne West had his pants partly pulled down. And it was equally if not more important.”

Facebook Facepalm

National Public Radio aired a story offering friendly advice to teachers about posting on Facebook. The basic premise is that teachers don’t have the same leeway as others because of the nature of the job. So this status update would not be the best choice:

Neither would this photo:

The story went on to give examples of teachers who lost their jobs over such infractions as calling homosexuality a “perverted sin,” referring to their students as “future criminals” and posting photos of themselves covered in chocolate sauce gyrating next to a stripper.

Fair enough.

Now I don’t want to seem like a scold or anti-freedomy™, but broadcasting your awfulness to the world is not always the right course of action especially when your job is to teach students to take tests made up by people seeking to annihilate all forms of public education. I’ll admit I like to cover myself in applesauce while gyrating next to stuffed animals I dressed up as strippers–in fact I’m doing it right now–the difference is I don’t take pictures of it or let people know about it…oh, sh*t. Unlike.

But should this just be applicable to teachers? Yes, teachers are revered in our society–just ask Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, but if I am not allowed to call my students sludge buckets for the entire world to see, why are you allowed to inundate me with updates about your hiccups?

Now this has never been done before–a blog first, or blirst™–but I’m about to devise a list of Facebook Etiquette, or Facebookquette…no, that doesn’t work…how ’bout Speaker7’s Guide to Non-Asshattery on Facebookery? Score. I’m going to trademark it. ™

Speaker7’s Guide to Non-Asshattery on Facebookery or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb™:

  • Don’t write about your hiccups. Or that you’re tired or hungry or yearning to be free. No one cares, unless you’re an actual baby. Then I would be impressed by your ability to spell hiccups, and I would steal you away for an appearance on the Today show calling you the Facebaby™.
  • Don’t post photographs of your fabulous vacation destination that looks nothing like the hellhole I call home. I can’t afford a vacation, jerk, so thanks for rubbing it in my facebook. Oh, you’re not home? I’m going to go break into your house.
  • Don’t post that you’re going to break into someone’s house. That’s going to get you arrested, and you saw how hard that was for Paris Hilton. She’s a warrior.
  • Don’t call Paris Hilton a warrior. Even though you are kidding, humor doesn’t translate well on Facebook, and people will think you’re stupid and out of touch. Paris Hilton is sooooo 2000.
  • Don’t write FML about anything unless you a literally fucking your life, and if you are doing that, post pictures.
  • Don’t write angry diatribes about slut women or gay immigrants under my status update about watching the Republican debate and vomiting into a bucket. We clearly don’t see things from the same perspective, and ranting like a dehydrated former child star won’t change things.
  • And finally, never use Facebook.