The Chinese Fire Drill

Friday, October 29, 2010

It Has a Lot to do with the Health Insurance

Today was the final day to decide on supplemental coverage for vision and dental insurance. We dropped those benefits last year (and increased our HSA deductibles to $6,000) so that we could avoid laying off teachers.

I know I made the right choice last year; I know saving someone's job is always the noble thing to do. But now I have to pay all my vision & dental out of pocket. If I made enough to save for it, that would be fine. But I don't. I'm driving a 20-year old car so I can budget food money.

There's no point in complaining, though. First, health insurance is still killing all of us. Second, the hostility against teachers is so acidic that any complaint would invite a volley of hate mail.

I won't be getting any vision and dental. These are dark times.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Dark Underbelly of Grading

Orginally Written: October 2010

We just finished the first quarter of our school year, and here's an example of the numbers I have to deal with every year:

I have 69 "Regular" English students (again...I don't even know what "Regular" means).
Of their grades for the quarter, FIVE of them were significant or meaningful or major.
On average, it takes me 51 minutes to grade all five assignments for just ONE student.
So...51 minutes multiplied by 69 students equals 58.6 hours of grading per quarter.
All of this grading SHOULD be done outside of class instruction time.

I have eleven Honors students and another 50 AP students.
If I apply the same formula to those two groups, I'm adding another 122.9 hours of grading for the quarter.

So what?

Here's what matters:

My Perfect School, Part III

My Perfect School, Part III

Chapter 4: Why Our Teachers are Different

When I was a young teacher, I had students shoot baskets with Nerf balls...yes, that's right...Nerf balls because I was trying to “enthuse” them about grammar. The truth is, I was doing no such thing. I was simply wasting time and money. My students left that class every bit as unable to label the parts of speech in a sentence as they did before I attempted to “inspire” them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Perfect School: Part II

My Perfect School, Part II

Chapter 2: The Only Tests that Matter

Every state in the union now holds schools' “feet to the fire” by way of one more standardized tests.  The premise is that offering a universal test over basic skills as well as reading comprehension and critical thinking is a good benchmark for measuring the learning taking place at each school.  The strange thing about this is that we've already HAD that test for decades.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Perfect School: Part I

My Perfect School

Prologue: Why Charters, Vouchers, Etc. Aren't Really Working

Why even suggest the concept of an alternative school when said alternatives are already appearing all over the nation?  The Voucher concept began decades ago and became election-time fodder in the late 80's and early 90's.  And frustrated parents and community members have been popping out Charter schools like Pez Dispensers (to quote Rhea Perlman's description of her character's, Carla's, birthing record in Cheers).  Charters however, for all the attention they get and the controversy they generate, really haven't threatened the status of public education.  For all the griping that parents and even kids themselves make about their schools, when the time comes to choose between the Charter and the local high school, most kids go local.

Why?  One word: sports.