Rhettoracle's Blog

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It’s your kid’s fault! – Silly Bandz

Yea!  My first entry in this category.  Let’s start with Silly Bandz since it is what has come to my attention first.  A school district in South Carolina recently started to struggle with the child and tweenager bracelets, and the district has banned the “bandz” from school.  As the article states, schools in several other states have had to ban them as well.  Why is this article under the category “It’s your kid’s fault?”  Because this is a perfect example of the day to day nonsense that teachers have to put up with.  Your child comes to school with Silly Bandz, a perfectly harmless product  (and might I add, a great way for children to learn how to trade and share – in case you don’t know, trading these bracelets with their peers is all the rage).   But because enough of you parents have not reared your children properly, taught them the value of an education and showed them right from wrong, your children are using the bracelets to do their evil bidding, that is, hurt each other with them.  Schools do not act too quickly on issues like this, so if they have made a blanket ban, then it is obviously a significant disruption and has been for quite some time.  So what?  *Deep breath*:  Now the teachers are responsible for making sure students don’t have them, and when they see them, have to stop class and ask the students to turn them over, at which point the students will sometimes refuse, so now the teacher has to make a call to the office to send an administrator to come collect the bracelets so that the teacher can resume teaching for just long enough to get back into it when the administrator finally has time to show up (because s/he was dealing with another classroom full of silly bandz), and therefore the teacher has to stop again while the administrator deals with the problem, and….*deep breath*….on and on.  So one harmless little toy has proven to be a disruption for this generic classroom, not once, but twice in one class period.  So yes, schools having trouble is your kid’s fault.


April 21, 2010 Posted by | It's your kid's fault! | , , , | Leave a comment

Introduction of a New Segment: “It’s your kid’s fault!”

I’ve decided that there have been so many great stories about why are schools are in trouble over the years.  I’m going to jump on that bandwagon with a light-hearted series called “It’s your kid’s fault”.  Under this topic, you will find stories about what we as educators have to face everyday in our classrooms.  You the public want to blame teachers for poor test scores, failing schools, dropout rates, etc, etc.  These stories will show just some of the day to day annoying things that your kid does in our classrooms – for which there is very little we can do.

What do I mean?  Well, let me examine some of the consequences for minor disruptions of the classroom.  After / Before school detention?  Can’t because your kid rides the bus and doesn’t get here until 5 minutes before the bell and the bus leaves immediately after school.  Lunch detention?  Can’t because your kid is on free or reduced lunch because you don’t work so your kid has to go to the cafeteria to get food.  Oh, you say that the student should get the food and bring it to my classroom?  Can’t because federal / state laws prohibit food from leaving the cafeteria to the classrooms.  Call home?  Can’t because all 7 of the numbers you gave the school have been disconnected, are no longer in service, or do not have an answering machine, or you no longer live with the 10 other people in that house (it’s weird then, why every kid has a smartphone, yet I can’t get in touch with parents – things that make you go “hmmmm”).  Write a discipline referral?  Really?  1) for minor disruptions, that is kind of silly.  2) Admin will view it as silly and not do anything about it.  3) If it is a big enough or constant disruption that warrants a referral, then In-School Suspension (ISS) will be assigned.  So a student gets a free pass to hang out in a room and not have to deal with teachers for a day.  Sure, that will help correct the behavior!

Now look, a good teacher can maintain a certain level of order in the classroom, and a good teacher develops a rapport with his / her students so that order is the norm in the classroom.  HOWEVER, just because there is order and expectations does not mean that the disruptions do not happen regularly.  And when you have 75 students (block scheduling) or 150 students (traditional scheduling) each day, you will have constant distractions and disruptions that you have to do something about.  All of that adds up to lost instruction, not just in the amount time, but it also takes away from those that do not cause disruptions as they get distracted and might pay attention to the distraction rather than what the teacher is teaching.  Now look, take the posts in this category with a grain of salt – they are not the sole reason, nor am I trying to say that it is the sole reason for schools not doing well.  But taken together, all of these stories do make you go “hmmmm…”

With all of that said, let’s look at Silly Bandz in my next post…

April 21, 2010 Posted by | It's your kid's fault! | , , | 1 Comment

What to do when banks and schools fail.

There are so many issues that I could have chosen for my first official blog entry.  Instead of painstakingly trying to figure out what the perfect starting point is, I decided to just jump into an issue and see what happens.

So what happens when banks in the United States fail?  Over the past few years, we as a country have decided to lend them taxpayer dollars to bail them out, only to find that we are facing additional banks in trouble.  In return, some of those banks that were bailed out continue to pay millions of dollars to their top executives in bonuses.  Now before you haul off on me as a communist who does not believe in free enterprise, please allow me to finish…

If we accept the notion that education is in trouble (as has been beaten to death in the media with statistics showing the US slipping among industrialized nations on test scores), then why don’t we pay big money to top executives (principals) to come and save the schools?  What are we doing instead?  Well, let’s look at Florida.  Thankfully, the governor recently vetoed a law that would have tied teacher pay to student performance.  The argument for the proposed law?  Florida Congressional leaders said that this would help to foster a climate in which teachers are motivated to work harder for the pay.  And teachers working harder will then help turn around poor performing schools.  First of all, I will leave the whole discussion of students’ performance on a test as related to teacher effectiveness for another day.  Second of all, would someone please tell me where the incentive would be to work harder under such a proposed system?  Let’s examine the facts under such a proposed pay system:

1) students in low income communities perform worse on standardized tests than students in high income communities (as a whole);

2) teachers in low SES schools will have to work extra hard to get some of their students to pass the standardized tests on which their pay is based, whereas teachers in high SES schools will have to do relatively little (I’ve taught in both types of schools, so I know how much harder I have to work in a low SES school to get my students to even pass a unit test, let alone a standardized test);

3) teachers with more experience and advanced degrees are not interested in working extra hard, and they are in the highest demand in education because they KNOW how to teach (obviously, in general, there are exceptions to every generality).

The result:  When you add up those 3 simple facts, you are not going to make your poor performing schools better, you are going to make them worse.  The best teachers in those schools are going to seek the first escape to the school / district in which the likelihood of higher test scores (and thus higher pay) is much greater.  Thus, in the end, you are going to have the best teachers making the most money in the ALREADY best schools.  The poor performing schools will be revolving doors for teachers in which the best teachers will move on and the poor teachers will either quit or they will be kept on because no one else wants to fill the vacancies there.

I am not trying to say in this post that the banks should not have been bailed out.  There are billions of dollars at stake and our national economy to consider.  There are tens of thousands of jobs on the line.  It was not necessarily a bad move.  But what I am saying is that education is more important, that is, if we expect this country to continue competing economically in the world 30 years from now.  It is about time for our country to take a stand and fund education to the highest possible degree.  There has to be incentives to teach.  If you major in biology, what is the likelihood you will take a $30,000 salary in a teaching position, with the potential to make less given current funding proposals across the country such as the one in Florida, when instead, you could go onto med school or get a masters / PhD in research and work for a pharmaceutical company, etc, etc?  When we start talking about paying teachers for what they are worth thereby encouraging the brightest minds to enter education (as well as adopting a much better teacher evaluation system), then we can start talking about improving poor performing schools.

Many of the critics of education throw around buzz words such as market forces, privatization, vouchers, accountability, etc, to say that schools need to be more like businesses.  To that I say, well, then if we are to be treated more like a business, then why don’t you start paying us like a business?  You want to turn a school around, then you better pony-up the dollars to attract the best and brightest into the field of education.  You have to make it inviting for a physicist to want to leave NASA (or wherever) and teach high school.  Hmmm….$100,000 to work at NASA, or $38,000 to teach?  DUH!

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Failing Schools, Funding | , , , | Leave a comment