Monday, January 25, 2021
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So do I have to change my user name?

That is the logical question to ask after the decision I made Tusday evening, and upon which I acted Wednesday morning.

I notified the personnel office that I am taking the retirement buyout and retiring from my current position as a teacher in a Maryland school system, effective the end of this school year.

I am doing so without knowing what I will be doing next year, and knowing that I will still need some income, albeit not as much as my current teacher salary - after all, I am already on Social Security and will also draw a state pension.

I have begun to explore other opportunities.

Miracle schools, vouchers and all that educational flim-flam

3 the title of this piece by Diane Ravitch.  Diane Ravitch  It appeared at the website of Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, as part of the "Ask This"  which is subtitled "Questions the Press Should Ask."   Oh if only reporters and writers on education were knowledgeable enough about education to ask questions such as those posed by Ravitch, perhaps we could cut through all the misleading and inaccurate information, the attempts to manipulate the public discourse on education to exclude the voices of those - including both Ravitch (a personal friend) and myself - who say that our supposed pattern of educational "reform" is like the emperor's new clothes -  there is no there there, as Gertrude Stein once opined of Oakland.

You should read Ravitch's piece.   To whet your appetite, let me offer Diane's first paragraph here, and then explore a bit more below the fold:  

Be skeptical of miracle schools. Sometimes their dramatic gains disappear in a year or two or three. Most such claims rely on cheating or gaming the system or on intensive test prep that involves teaching children how to answer test questions. These same children, having learned to take tests, may actually be very poorly educated, even in the subjects where their scores were rising.

Please keep reading.

Musings on a holiday weekend

which I found myself writing late morning yesterday, sitting in my local Starbucks, when perhaps I should have been doing other things.

I claim no great insight for the words in it, which appear below the fold.

At least part of it reminds me that despite the occasional difficulties of stretching our pay to the end of the month, especially with the nearly 10,000 pay cut I have received from my school system this year (and the prospects of the current low levels or worse continuing for another year or two) I am actually quite rich.

I invite you to what was a Saturday morning meditation.

This teacher reacts to seeing “Waiting for Superman”

Friday schools across Maryland were closed, so I went to the first show at Noon.  

On the way home I thought long and hard about what I would say.

No matter how I parse it, my reaction has two key points.

1.  Davis Guggenheim feels guilty about not sending his kids to public schools, and the result is a film which basically trashes public schools, public school teachers, teachers unions, while unjustly glorifying Geoffrey Canada, Michelle Rhee, charters, Kipp, and union busting.

2.  The film is intellectually dishonest, so much so it is laughable.

I will explain my reactions below the fold.

A Saturday morning pause

in the transition to the school year.  Students will arrive on Monday.  I now have 192 on my roles for 6 classes, that number being held down because one is a special program with only 21.  The numbers in order read 21-30-37-38-38-28.  I have 39 desks, and it is possible all will be filled in some classes.

The biggest story in education is the LA Times on value-added scores of LA school teachers, the paper publishing names & picture of teachers with the scores  I have been asked by several people to write on the subject here, but since I am not myself a psychometrician and there are real technical issues, I have been attempting to leave it to other people.  And there is a wealth of commentary on the subject in the last few days, too much for me to have absorbed.  

Perhaps I will write about that issue, or other issues that concern me.  I am never unconcerned about matters affecting schools, teachers and most of all students.  But this morning my reflection is also on broader issues.  

So I invite you to continue reading as I offer my morning mental meanderings in the brief period before I again become fully immersed in school and students.

Some things are simply not negotiable

which is why we removed them from government action by protecting against such action in the Constitution and its Amendments.

Speech and religion are both supposed to be protected.

We do not allow either to be suppressed either by the Government, nor by people no matter how many who might object.  A heckler's veto is not supposed to be able to deny someone's speech, otherwise whoever can yell the loudest can prevent the expression by anyone with whom s/he may disagree.

Yes, our rights are never absolute, because if they are in conflict there becomes a need to balance.

Hurt feelings however should never trump guaranteed rights.

Someone who does not understand that is not, in my opinion, fit for public office of any kind.  Those who would bow to a mob mentality are thereby encouraging more shrillness, larger mobs, greater attempts to suppress expression or belief, and thereby undercutting one of the basic principles of this nation.


The end of the school year – the good, the bad...

crossposted from the Great Orange Satan at the request of KathyinBlacksburg

Our last day with students was Wednesday, for teachers Thursday.  Our report back day is August 16, which happens to be one of the days for which we are furloughed to save the district money - which also means many teachers may refuse to report because they are not being paid.  I will cross that bridge later.

Today I will travel to Westtown school in Pennsylvania to honor David Mallery, an extraordinary educator well-known in independent school circles who got me to participate in his amazing Westtown seminar, which empowered me to rethink my own approach to teaching.  

Before I travel North from Virginia, allow me to ruminate online.  As I do, you can imagine the music from Ennio Morricone in the background.  In fact, I promise to share it with you at the beginning of the jump, just to set the tone!.  

I invite you to continue reading.

A group of remarkable teachers . . .

originally posted at Daily Kos on May 11

Tonight I was one of 21 teachers honored at the Washington Post for our winning Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Awards, one from each of the 19 public school districts, one for private and parochial schools, and one from DC Charter Schools.  I was very much honored to be in the company of the 20 others, about whom I will offer more.   Among the guests were people with whom I had prior contact, or with whom I share people in common.  It was a remarkable evening.

It begins with the Washington Post Company.  Donald Graham, chair of the board of the company, established these awards almost 3 decades ago, inspired by someone working for him who had previously been DC Superintendent, and in memory of his grandmother, for whom the awards are named. The level of commitment to this by the Post is commendable - besides a reception and dinner for each of the 21, up to 12 guests for each winner, and officials from the school districts, we teachers each received a crystal apple purchased from Tiffany and an award of $3,000. Graham was joined on the dais by his niece, Post publisher Katherine Weymouth, and Post company vice-chair Bo Jones.  

Please join me as I tell a bit about the evening, starting with my fellow teachers.

This could be a very sad day – I choose differently

1890  the birth of Adolph Hilter
1999  the shootings at Columbine High School

Either could be an occasion to look back - in horror or in sadness.

Instead I look ahead. To the words of a man born around this time - we do not know for sure when, only that he was baptized on April 26.

And for this day, one set of his words seems appropriate, at least in my mind:

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon my self and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

The rest of this diary will be a meditation on this, one of my most cherished poems.

the violence of Patriots’ Day

in 1775, the outbreak of the American Revolution.  The British marched  from Boston to seize arms accumulated by Americans.  The 1st shots were fired at Lexington, the badly outnumbered Americans fell back. The next engagement was at Concord. By then several hundred Americans had gathered, At North Bridge they drove the British back, and as the Redcoats retreated towards Boston, continued to fire upon them from behind rocks and trees.  More troops marched from Boston to rescue the endangered column. they retreated to Boston, where the colonists cut them off and began the siege of Boston.

This is an important day in Beantown, one experienced as a Marine '66.  The Post band at Quantico, came up, playing at a gathering the night before. We were near Concord Bridge for the ceremonies the next morning (only 20 feet  from the cannon firing every minute), finishing the day at the end of the Marathon on a day when the Japanese finished 1-2-3-4.

Like other Americans, my memories of the date are clouded by violence of a different kind -  the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, and two the terrorism of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols at the Alfred P. Murrah Building.

Today I reflect upon violence.