Tag Archives: soapbox ramblings

#NoWhining #PantsuitNation #ProgressiveConservatives

I originally had this as a FB post, but I thought I’d put it here as well. Warning: Post contains no whining or finger-pointing.

soapbox2<Steps on soapbox to begin rant>
I’ve been added to Pantsuit Nation twice, and twice I’ve left. This time I blocked myself from being added back to it. Here’s why: I can handle organizing for protests or to work on the 2018 election platform or something productive. I cannot handle people whining about various and sundry things. (Some clearly made up from attention-seekers.)

I’m pagan, lesbian, “a progressive conservative,” and pescatarian. I’ve experienced misogyny, anti-LGBT sentiment and actions, Christians who’ve persecuted me and tried to get me fired, and people who like to snark about non-meat-eaters. I’ve had to pay for private insurance for my wife for most of our 21 years together because we couldn’t get legally married. I’ve been cat-called on a college campus by groups of Middle Eastern males and groped by boys I thought were friends. You don’t see me developing prejudices or complaining about past/current injustices. Life hands you lemons? Make goddamn lemonade and sell it to the masses.

I respect action, not complaints. My first principal said: If you have a problem, when you come to me, also have ideas for a solution. I disliked her, but I respect the sentiment.

I’m sorry HRC didn’t win. I’m sorry the VP is a guy who openly tries to marginalize LGBTQ persons. I’m hopeful that the Orange One will shake things up, not listen to the establishment advisers he’s installing in the Cabinet, and add some spice into Paul Ryan’s life. I’m hopeful that people will form a new party called Progressive Conservatives and nominate my sister for president. I’m hopeful that my new SAFE Security series will take off. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to finish revising my dark fairy tale novella and write a second one this month. I’m hopeful that more women will take self-defense classes. I’m hopeful my teenagers will turn back into people. Most of all, I’m not complaining–I’m making a plan for the things I can control and moving forward.

<falls off soapbox>

You can’t reason with Crazy

As a teacher, I’ve dealt with my fair share of eccentric parents. Most had the best intentions with regard to their children, so I kept that in mind, and things generally worked out well. There was this one parent, though, who was genuinely crazy. The first email she ever sent was so nasty (attacking me personally and professionally) that I went to the kid’s former teachers–and eventually my principal–for advice before responding. (They said she was confrontational and nasty with every teacher.) I stuck to the issue, responded only to the issue she raised with regard to her kid, and tried to work with her. She responded with more nastiness. I asked her to come in to meet with me (people sometimes come across as nasty over email but not in real life), but she refused. She sent her kid in one time to meet with me for extra help, but he never came again, and he never came to the weekly study groups I ran. I got the sense that the parent was more interested in learning than the kid (who was actually doing well–I think he had a B or B+), which is frequently the case with pushy parents. Looking back, I think it was his way to push back.

Fast forward enough years for this kid to be in college. His younger sister swims with my daughter. My first interaction with this parent was when she was slandering several teachers in my building and spreading incorrect rumors. (We’d had an issue with a teacher who had been “placed” with us. She solved it by getting pregnant and quitting in October. We had a long-term sub, a great teacher who was active in our building, for a few weeks until we could hire a permanent replacement.) Anyway, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I turned around and said, “That’s not what happened.” This woman yelled at me, and she was nasty until the other parents started giving her a strange look because she was definitely crossing a line. Mostly, I ignored this woman. I even worked with her on a committee–until the head coach removed her from it for causing problems.

This pattern remained in place until my daughter became friends with hers. When that happened, I said, “Sweetie, don’t expect to have play dates or get-togethers with her outside of swim because her mom doesn’t like me.” (BTW–she chose to home school this kid. I think it due to the fact that she was so nasty to so many teachers that she’s afraid to step foot in a school building.) This was the only thing I said. Ever. So it surprised me when, out of the blue, I received this email from her–to my work email (keep in mind that our personal emails are all on the swim team website):

{Swim Team Name} is not a social club it is a swim team!

Recent conversation:

{my kid}: How come your mom doesn’t like my momS?

{her kid}: I don’t know, never heard that.

{my kid}: Is it because of your brother when he had my mom as a teacher?

{her kid}: ummm

{my kid}: because my mom says he never worked hard enough.

{her kid}: That’s not true.

 

This isn’t 3rd grade, I don’t need to “like” you.

My decision to not get to know you personally has nothing to do with  5 years ago although your unprofessional manner back then certainly made it an easy choice to not get to know you personally now.

Let me just start by saying this conversation should have never taken place because you should not be speaking negatively about a student past or present by name.

My son graduated within the district, lives and works within the district and your comments then and now continue to be unethical and unnecessary.

The answer to your daughters question is really very simple:

I tend to place myself and my family around morally sound individuals and in no way do your actions, words or life style fit in with that.

Feel free to share MY answer with your daughter and then ask her to not approach {her kid, though she spelled the name differently} on the pool deck again. Thanks.

You’re wondering about my response, so here it is. (I’ll admit I was pissed. My daughter denies the conversation ever took place. I’ve never said anything about her–or any other–student to my kids. Perhaps her daughter was fishing for information because her mom is controlling and has chased away all friends she’s made on the team? I felt that a reasonable person would have asked about this in person–but I know I’m not dealing with a reasonable person.) Please keep in mind that I missed the capital “S” in “momS” the first time around because I thought it was an error. I was under the impression that she merely hated me because I was a teacher. Yes, I did the all caps thing. Like I said, I was mad. Here it is:

I will not address this nastiness. Get therapy.

DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN BY EMAIL AND DO NOT USE MY WORK ACCOUNT. ALL EMAILS SENT TO THESE ACCOUNTS ARE SUBJECT TO LEGAL SCRUTINY, AND I CAN AND WILL REPORT YOU FOR HARASSMENT.
To which she replied:
I will gladly not contact you again and wish I hadn’t had to in the first place. Your work e-mail was used because this involves negetive comments you have made and are continueing to make about a past student. I simply contacted you to request that you CONDUCT YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT STUDENTS IN A MORE PROFESSIONAL PRIVATE MANNER. I chose to send this to you directly verses filing a complaint through the District, that was not done as harassement but rather as a courtesy.
{I left in all the misspellings. She must have had someone look over the first email because I’ve never seen anything so grammatically clean from her before.}
That night, she went to swim practice. I don’t usually stick around for 2 hours to watch, but when I saw her on deck (a leisure pool is in the next room from the lap pool, and it’s separated by a window), I couldn’t leave. Her daughter came up to mine, and the two started laughing and talking. This woman stared at my daughter through the glass until the coach came over (and the crazy woman looked in the stands and saw me watching her,) and then she left. If she didn’t want her daughter talking to mine, then she probably should have said something to her. I’m not telling my kid that she can’t be friendly and polite to her teammates. I want to teach her quite the opposite value.
What I learned is that she disliked me for being a lesbian more than for being a teacher, and that she meant to threaten my job. Sure, I could have explained myself, but to what end? She wasn’t going to believe anything I said, and this was only going to escalate. (And I have issues with adults who run around quoting tweens’ conversations.) I did not respond to her response. As someone who isn’t going to stand for the bullying, I notified my administration and the swim coach that this crazy woman is threatening and harassing me. (No response from my principal, but that’s not a shocker. The swim coach said she and the head of Pools and Fitness will do whatever needs to be done to support me.) If she contacts me again, I’ll see if I can get a restraining order.
So far, this is the craziest and most deranged parent I’ve had to deal with. Fingers crossed that this is it!

Novel Choice

As my focus turns toward the school year, I’ve decided to blog about my experiences as a teacher. Today, I want to share an email I sent to the People In Charge of curriculum. Backstory: I used to be the department head, the cohort facilitator (plan and run professional development), and curriculum writer. Those things pulled me from my classroom a lot, and I hated being gone so much. For a variety of reasons, including forced absenteeism, I stepped down from all those roles. Then the central office administration changed, and they issued new directives about the curriculum. Some were fine (they finally finished writing the rubrics for the assessments) and other changes bothered me. Here’s a letter I wrote in response to the adoption of “anchor texts,” which are novels each grade level would be required to read. Specifically, I wrote it about the text chosen for 6th grade, which I had successfully avoided teaching for over a decade. Here it is:

Dear (Names Withheld),

I expressed my reservations about adopting Freak the Mighty for district consumption at the ELA cohort meeting. I’d like to put my reasoning into writing.

 

  1. Freak the Mighty disseminates misinformation about LD persons. It portrays people with learning disabilities at mentally slow and physically clumsy. They are neither. People with learning disabilities have to work harder to learn in certain areas, but they are by no means cognitively slow or physically clumsy. In fact, they often shine when it comes to music and sports—and even in subject areas that play to their strengths. An LD student might struggle with math, but he/she may shine in reading or writing.

Cognitively Impaired individuals frequently display problems with physical activities due to their cognitive impairment. The portrayal of Max is reminiscent of a simplified version of Lenny (Of Mice and Men), only he doesn’t squeeze Kevin to death. This confusion of what a disability means is harmful to the social and emotional development of students, especially at this age. If the topic of the novel is the reason it was selected, then there are many more enlightened (and recent) novels on the market that will fill that niche.

  1. The reading level is 5.5. This is bothersome as a teacher and as a parent. I do not want lower standards to be the norm for my students or my children. Students rise to meet your expectations. It bothers me that the district is lowering standards. The only reason the book is rated at 5.5 is due to some of the vocabulary terms purposely used for dramatic effect—which readers do not need to know in order to understand the novel. If only the plot and writing style were taken into account, the reading level would drop to 3rd or 4th grade. (The description is sporadic. The plot is overly simplistic, with a rushed climax that misses the opportunity to develop Max’s character at all. There’s nothing here that can truly be used to teach grade level objectives.)

 

Reasons given for choosing this novel:

  1. “It is short.” Yes, it’s short, as are most elementary level novels. If a short read is desired (which is, in my opinion, an invalid criteria for choosing a novel), then the district can investigate other options.
  1. “It appeals to boys because the main character is male.” I acknowledge that fewer boys identify as readers at this age (due to a variety of societal factors that remove male role models as readers from their lives). However, we’re selling everybody short if we’re using this as a criteria for novel selection. Girls are traditionally shortchanged when it comes to seeing main characters in novels that look like themselves. In fact ALL of the “anchor” novels chosen feature male characters in positions of power/main character roles. I don’t see us making a concerted effort to address the gender imbalance issue. When we teach reading as a skill rather than a gender-based activity, we teach ALL students to enjoy literature. Seeking to disenfranchise female readers by embracing all-male archetypes harms all students. Boys, as well as girls, need to see both genders in feature roles.
  1. “It gives students a common experience on which later teachers can draw.” Are later teachers being required to read these novels? Are they really working references to these into their lesson plans? I didn’t think so. None of the novels chosen at the middle school level play upon a particular theme that becomes more complicated by the next text. The argument for an anchor novel loses steam when the texts aren’t chosen with thematic links in mind. I’m not in favor of anchor texts, especially when they are chosen by “what we’ve taught before” and “what we own the most copies of” instead of substantive and common criteria.

 

I am not arguing for the district to choose a specific text, especially in middle school. In the past, I’ve chosen texts based on student interest. Yes—I let them vote on the novels they read. It’s empowering for the students, which is a powerful motivator for even the most reluctant reader. It’s also in keeping with the district’s purported values for classroom environment, according to the rubric we were given at the 5D+ meeting. Maybe I don’t teach the same novel from year to year, but it keeps my teaching fresh, and it forces me to keep a student-centered approach to each novel each year. I am, however, urging you to reconsider this novel (and perhaps some of the others) as anchor texts. Perhaps, instead of rushing to have anchor texts for the sake of having them, a committee should establish criteria for choosing them–and then choices should be piloted and discussed.

Respectfully,

(Not my pen name)

ELA teacher with high–yet achievable–expectations

 

That’s the email I sent. I’ll be surprised if I get a response. The last time I objected to a district or building policy (putting students with low standardized test scored in with special education students in order to “track” them), I was ignored. If I do get one, I’ll share the juicy details with you. Just kidding–they won’t be juicy. Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on this issue.

 

Update: I got a response:

I appreciate you writing your reservations and the reasons you believe the novel was chosen.  The novel chosen was selected collaboratively by the K-12 alignment group and supported by the Directors.  At this time, this is the required anchor text we will be using.  It is expected that additional texts (novels) will be included in your instruction; you would be able to utilize the thoughts mentioned in the email.

What I took away from this: Basically, I was told to deal with it myself. I did respond to ask for more of a response, but I was pretty much told that my concerns had been “noted.” And people wonder why parents lose faith in the school system.

Soapbox: CCSS and Idiocy

Warning: I’m on a soapbox for this. Almost nobody reads my blog, so I’m probably throwing this into the digital ether, but this is going to make me feel better, so I’m going to have my say.

I’ve been holding off for a while because I’m trying not to be political, but these dumb-ass memes going around about Common Core math are, well, stupid. I see things like this:

Common Core Crap Meme

…And I want to scream. Most of the time I roll my eyes and keep scrolling, but ignorance really pisses me off and these memes are like the flu–their sickness just gets passed from one person to the next. This isn’t Common Core math. CCSS (Common Core State Standards) do NOT include teaching strategies. They’re a set of standards that way what students will be able to do. They list what students should be able to use, determine, apply, extend thinking, understand, explain. Here’s second grade standard: Use addition and subtraction within 100 to solve one- and two-step word problems involving situations of adding to, taking from, putting together, taking apart, and comparing, with unknowns in all positions, e.g., by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.1″

BEST PRACTICES: Years of studies about teaching and learning have resulted in an evolving set of what’s called “best practices.” This goes beyond the logical “establish positive relationships with students” to provide detailed recommendations and lesson ideas for teaching concepts. There are detailed Developmental Progression charts, lists of evidence to look for that indicate a child has achieved understanding, recommendations for lessons, and suggestions for different ways to implement those lessons. These teaching strategies are what everybody seems to be the most pissed about, but they’re confusing them for CCSS, and they’re confusing themselves (untrained as educators) with people who have 4-7 years of higher education and practical classroom experience. Here’s a link to best practices documents. (Hint: click on the “best practices” link.)

And here’s a paragraph from the 7th grade intro that gives an overview of a topic: “Students extend their understanding of ratios and develop understanding of proportionality to solve single- and multi-step problems. Students use their understanding of ratios and proportionality to solve a wide variety of percent problems, including those involving discounts, interest, taxes, tips, and percent increase or decrease. Students solve problems about scale drawings by relating corresponding lengths between the objects or by using the fact that relationships of lengths within an object are preserved in similar objects. Students graph proportional relationships and understand the unit rate informally as a measure of the steepness of the related line, called the slope. They distinguish proportional relationships from other relationships.”

Note the number of different ways students are taught to approach the problem. The purpose of this is to teach deeper and alternate thinking strategies. Why? Because when one strategy isn’t getting you to the solution, it’s a good idea to have backup strategies. This isn’t just a MATH lesson; it’s a LIFE lesson. The definition of stupid is when you keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. CCSS are trying to combat stupid.

What else is stupid? The fact that just because some adults can’t figure out what the hell is going on with those two solving methods, they think one is invalid. NEWSFLASH: If your kid can understand both methods, they’re smarter than you. That’s right, your worst fears have come true: You’re not smarter than a second grader. Just because you can’t figure out the methodology and its applications doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Chances are, you aren’t the one who figured out how to write programming for Facebook either. Maybe your kid will be able to figure that out using the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills they learned in math class. Be happy that they will have better chances for success in life. Instead of bitching about crap you don’t bother to try to understand, investigate it. Try to figure it out. Or ask a second grader for help.

Another stupid thing: Teachers are left with the responsibility of defending CCSS. This stems from the common misconception that teachers are just glorified parents/babysitters. We’re not. We learned our content area to a depth you didn’t so that we could teach it in a variety of ways to a variety of learners. You need to trust that teachers know what they’re doing. If they don’t, then it’s the principal’s job to remove them. Idiocy becomes apparent very quickly when you put a person in front of a group of kids. (But those stories are for another post.)

And the last bit of stupidity: CCSS were put together by a NON-partisan group of PEOPLE WHO KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING. They looked at state standards around the country, especially those in successful states and districts. They compared those with standards from around the world. The Internet is a wonderful thing, but the same way you can chat with someone on the other side of the world online, those people are now part of the global community–and you’re all competing for the same jobs. To not make our kids smarter than us (or just you–I’m pretty damn smart), is to do them a disservice. So educate yourselves parents, and not by reading or watching political crap.

Here’s a link to the CCSS website. It’s very easy to navigate. Please visit this in lieu of posting idiotic memes. Someone famous once said, “Seek knowledge and you may escape ignorance.” Or not. I might have made that last part up, but it’s a good quote anyway.

This has been my PSA of the summer. <Steps off soapbox and returns to writing romantic suspense.>