Monday, May 31, 2010

We Failed.

Today in our Learning Specialist's office one of my students stared a computer trying to make sense of a massive project he is to complete by the end of the school year. Our English teacher and I have combined forces to create the 8th Grade Exit Project, which is supposed to be mandated by the state but isn't actually. Regardless, it's worth 35% of our students' English AND Social Studies grades, which means if they do not do well on it many of them will be sent to summer school.

This young man in particular has been having a rough time with school lately. He's a low-level reader and has scraped by this year because he's worked pretty hard. His home life is less than stellar and his mother is, to be frank, pretty worthless (she came to parent conferences and laughed at the teachers when they said her son's 65's across the board were not good enough- he was passing after all). The student is generally not a behavior problem, but when he slips up there is no support at all whatsoever at home. To say the least, that puts much more pressure on the school to make sure he checks his behavior.

Now, this Exit Project is turning out to be different than much of the rest of this year's work. It appears as though it's a legitimate Exit Project, which means if the students lack the skills to complete it they could fail regardless of how hard they work. This was the wall this young man ran up against today. It became blindingly apparent to him how much he was lacking in academic skills- perhaps never so clear as in that moment.

Our learning specialist spoke to me about it afterward. She was startled as she explained that he simply did not understand what needed to be done with this project. It's always harsh to say that a students simply cannot get something, but this young man has a very real problem with knowledge retention. Throw as much of it at him as you want and it's going to pour out as if through a colander. For this reason our learning specialist pulled him out of the general education classroom and was working with him one on one during this project. It's important to note that this young man is not classified as special ed- mostly because his mother doesn't want him to be classified as such- but probably should be.

In spite of all of her best efforts (which are as a rule very effective with our students), this young man simply did not get what was supposed to happen with the project. When she brought this problem to me my response was such that it was obvious I was aware of this problem, which pushed the discussion further.

If I knew that he performed at such a low level, why hadn't more been done over the course of the year? Our team has a scheduled meeting every Friday devoted to addressing students who need extra support, and this student came up only once in that meeting this year. Granted, we have a whole ton of students who need extra support, but the tendency in those meetings is to talk about the biggest jerks and behavior problems running around the eighth grade instead of those who actually behave, do their jobs and need extra support.

There are several reasons the focus of this meeting can be misguided. First, all of the teachers have an incredible desire to address the behavior problems because if those students are controlled the whole class will run much more smoothly and all of the students will learn more. That desire is not misguided. A common perception, however, is that these students can be easily reformed and when that happens the lower-achieving, moderately well-behaved students being left behind will then receive the support they need. There also seems to be the assumption that the students acting out are doing so because they do not understand the material or do not have the skills to complete it. Because of the latter we talk about the miscreant students during this planned meeting instead of students like the one that is the subject of this post. Therein lies the real problem.

In my short experience, if a student acts out in an extreme way on a very regular basis it is not because he or she lacks the necessary skills. Surely that can add to it, but these students have major issues that are outside of the academics and from what I can tell outside of the ability of regular classroom teachers to address in the two minutes of individual time we have per student on average per day (in the upper grades).

Now, I'm not saying that we should leave the students with behavior problems behind, but the fact that this young man sat in my Learning Specialist's office on the verge of tears because he realized how low-functioning he is and the fact that all of the jerks and knuckle-heads got so much more of our attention this year than him is a damned crime. We failed him. Perhaps the cards and system were stacked up against him, but we're the ones that made the decision to let him go without the large amount of extra support he needed (regardless of whether his mother would allow it to be mandated or not) and instead concentrated on other students who need support we actually cannot give them, but that we are expected to.

But at least his mother's happy, right?

Last year I felt like I failed every student who needed extra help because I spent nearly all of my energy in and outside of the classroom dealing with behavior that should have gotten students removed from my classroom altogether, but did not. By this time last year I was so affected by it I didn't know what to think about my job any more. It seemed like I was the cause of students being left behind and learning next to nothing. I could draw no other conclusions than that my students had just gone through an entire year of their education and because of me (and the fact that they had three bad English teachers in one year), their literacy flat-lined or regressed and they left my class no better than when they entered it.

There's not a lot to say to a new teacher who feels that way. Unfortunately the expectations handed to them and the lack of support given to them leads many to a situation similar to this one. We go into this profession to work hard and to make a difference and the first year is slams you down and at best feels like a wash. All you can do sometimes is move forward with the faith that what people tell you-that the second year is far better- is true. While my team of four and I seems to have failed this student this year, the work we've done this year (two of us are in our second year) is a far cry from the work we did last year. Hopefully next year we'll avoid letting students like this one fall through the cracks by being better organized and focused and by giving those who will benefit from it most of everything we can.

Today's Wine: Charles Shaw Cabernet- I haven't had this in months and its return to the rotation is not without notice. I still think it's solid for what you pay, though of course nothing to write home about necessarily.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hiring Season

According to the New York Times, New York City is experiencing quite a run on teaching positions. They cite things like "3,620 applications for eight positions" and other large, frightening numbers. How in the world can someone coming out of a school of ed compete with that many new and veteran teachers? I might not know everything, especially since I'm not a principal, but here's what I've got in terms of advice.

General Tips


This should be one of the neatest-looking, concise, and descriptive documents you have ever created. It should make you sound as amazing as possible without sounding boastful, and it needs to be honest. While somewhere between a tenth and a third of people lie on their resumes, don't be one of them. Have several people read through your resume before handing it out to potential employers. If possible, find a current principal you won't be interviewing with or a former principal to check it out.

Pound the Pavement

I was told to fax my resume to the principals I wanted to interview with. That was a terrible idea. I spent $40 on faxes and never heard from a single one of them. Faxing might not have been the problem, but if you do call to follow up and perhaps send a copy via email. I'm always surprised to hear how defeated people are when they're not called back once they've submitted a resume or application (whether it's for a teaching job or a job at Target). Make it known that you really want the job and that you want to know your status with the school. Also don't assume that you're such a rock star that they'll be dying to call you back the second someone in the school even glimpses your resume. I may have been guilty of that, at least in part.

Mock Interviews
If you have access to a current or former administrator, for the love of pete use their expertise. Ask them to conduct a mock interview with you so you get used to answering the type of questions you will be asked. This might help to solidify or even get you started thinking about many of the things you will be asked to do as a teacher that they did not teach you in the school of ed. You may become more comfortable with the high-pressure situations as well.

Approaching the Interview
Show up to your interview early, polished, shaven (guys), well/appropriately dressed with plenty of resumes in hand. You should have learned everything possible about the school at which you are interviewing. While not necessarily the custom in the wide world of education, it's extremely important to show the principal or hiring team that you are interested in their school, not just a school. If you showed up to a decent job interview in the private sector and knew nothing about the company you were interviewing for, your chances of getting the position would bottom out. You need to be able to explain why you want to work at that school.

Be a Professional
In order to get the job you want you will need to have left college behind. Unlike professions like medicine and law you do not have the luxury of spending three to four more years after undergrad getting the partying out of your system, expanding your professional wardrobe and simply growing up into your mid-twenties. It is time to be an adult. Period. Without question. If your potential employer catches a whiff of your late Friday and Saturday night keg-stands or the fact that you have a tough time rolling our of bed at 9AM, the guy standing behind you with two years experience under his belt is going to get the position.

As much as we tell our students that hard work, ambition, and intelligence will get you places, we all know that is only true in part. In education it can be more about who you know than in the professions to which we generally attribute the phrase. If you did not make any "connections" while in the school of ed and you are now looking for a job, it's a bit late in the game but it is of course never too late to start. While my principal gave the go ahead on my hiring, it took my connections with my academic adviser as well as someone at the central office for the NYC Department of Education to even get my foot in the door for the interview I had at my school specifically.

Aces in Your Sleeve
You're young, you're ambitious, you're probably in your early twenties and perhaps determined to save the entire planet in one fell swoop. That eagerness and drive will work to your advantage. If you're a traditional ed student right now, you probably grew up immersed in technology and while you may not know how to implement it in the classroom, you should feel more comfortable with the very idea of it. While you don't want to exaggerate your abilities to work with them, let them know you are very interested in exploring the use of new technologies in the classroom. It's still a major advantage over many veteran teachers. I talked all about podcasting and blogging in the classroom at my interviews, though I'd just begun to figure out how to use those things in any way academic.

What You Do Not Have on Your Side
Experience. I tried to play up my subbing and year-long student teaching, but the reality is that I had no experience with the kind of work I'd be doing once I was hired. Don't act like you have no idea what's going on, but make it known that you are aware you are new to the field and that you are very eager to learn the ropes, follow the school leadership and grow into your position.

Your Administration
Based on my own experience and the experiences of my colleagues who have taught at numerous schools, if there is one factor you need to consider most when you are looking for a job it is your principal. During your first year especially, this is your commander-in-chief. As your life is consumed and thrashed about in that first year your principals' policies and ability to run the school and lead the staff will in many ways determine if you make it through year one ready for another helping, or not. If you do not agree with the philosophy of principals with whom you are interviewing, if you get a really bad feeling from them, or if you can tell that you simply won't work well on their staff, don't. I went through an interview last year where I liked the rest of the staff, but in my one brief encounter with the principal he was very cold, never introduced himself or asked who I was and told me I should consider working out of my certification area teaching something I knew nothing about. I'll never know, of course, but I hardly think that would have been a better working environment than the one I have now.

The Bottom Line
You need a job. That's clear. It's going to be really tough in the next couple of years as education funding is cut and as the people who would normally quit the field stay only because the economy is not producing jobs in other sectors. Chin up. Do everything you can every day this hiring season to get a job, ask for help, listen to people you know who are in the field already and don't give up.

Today's Wine: El Supremo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. This was under $10, a bit spicy, not fruity and very drinkable.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lapse to Year One

Last week I had kind of an episode. Being sick certainly contributed to the mistakes I made, but it has to be admitted that I lapsed, made a couple big mistakes and was only able to save face in my classroom because at this point in the year most of us (students and staff included) have solidified our personas in the classroom.

On Tuesday I was off grading exams, which was lucky, as I felt ill enough that I was considering canceling my last-period elective and going home early. Wednesday wasn't much better and I planned something that took longer than the minutes I had in class, so I sent the classwork home to be completed. That's usually a bad idea for two reasons: half the students won't turn it in and it starts to set a precedent that the work cannot be completed in class, which in turn leads students to simply not work in class (their excuse being that they'll finish it at home, even though, as just stated, most probably won't). That was not a good way to precede my plans for the following day, to say the least.

Thursday I walked in with a lesson that could have been pulled off if the management had been clamped down, students worked quickly and if the teacher had pushed them. I've had a good number of days like this over the course of the year (compared with maybe one last year), so I strolled into school Thursday thinking I'd pump out another one without a lot of effort and while ill. Then I completely disregarded a truth I'd learned both in the School of Ed and in the classroom last year: do NOT let students pick their groups if you want them to work efficiently or diligently. As much as teachers should be able to give students directions and expect them to be followed, giving them to the option to have a social hour with friends or completing class work has only led to one end in my classroom: a lot of loud conversations and little work, if any.

That's how brilliantly I set myself up for Thursday. While my other periods either ran themselves or were barely held together by some newly-forged alliances with students that used to give me trouble, I should have known going into sixth period (the one with the largest number of crazy maniacs) that there would be trouble. It ended in a whole lot of yelling on my part and eventually my students doing something they did all the time last year, but only once or twice this year: they stopped working entirely and stared at me. This is one of the most humiliating, humbling, and excruciating things a first year teacher goes through. It's a loss of control and students determining the pace of the class- their deciding they are going to stop working and following directions until you doing something besides yelling and cajoling them to comply with your call for order. My class even topped it off one of the things that made my stomach bottom-out last year: they laughed, nearly every one of them, at my frustration with them.

The problem achieved crystal clarity when one girl said out loud, "You let us pick the groups. What did you expect?", which was a demonstration of how the students have a way of being brutally honest in the midst of their defiance. When I heard that I agreed with it in my head, reprimanded the girl for speaking out of turn, stated that there was absolutely no excuse for the class to act the way it was and then I cranked up the pace of instruction, hoping to get the class back to moving at my pace. By the end of the period I'd convinced them to stay five minutes after the bell and assigned them a good deal more work than my other classes. I was so angry at the end of the period (and sick to boot) that when my last-period elective walked in I gave them their assignment and set them to it immediately while I fumed a bit about the previous period.

It all spoke again to the fact that there are still moments like this in the second year. While not nearly as affected by them now, they come out when I'm off my game for whatever reason. All you can do is not let it affect you, follow through with your disciplinary measures (I called about half the class to inform their parents of the students' unruly nature) and walk in better-prepared the following day. Next year I hope there will be even fewer days like this. The nice thing about this May is that I can imagine it happening, whereas last year I still couldn't believe that the second year could improve enough to make me like my job.

Today's Wine: '07 Rosso Di Sicilia- Colosi, Sicily: or so the menu said. This was another at our favorite wine bar, Cavatappo. Medium bodied, a bit smokey and phenomenal. Nero d'Avola does it to me every time.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Rusty System & Moving Boxes

In light of the recent move toward using student test scores to evaluate teachers, I'd like to comment on an experience I had on Tuesday at a grading site where very hard-working teachers had been pulled out of their classrooms to evaluate the tests our students completed two weeks ago (the eighth grade ELA exam). To be honest, I agree with the idea that students test scores should be part of how teachers are evaluated, but in order for that to be helpful the way we grade these exams needs to be updated, reevaluated and improved.

On Tuesday I was sent out of my school to grade the state ELA exams. When I showed up the woman running the grading site was incredibly confused that I could possibly be there instead of the teacher that had come from our school the day before. To her credit, schools are supposed to send only one teacher for the three days of grading, as the first day is spent training those teachers how to to score the exams on the second two.

After the initial shock wore off, the woman decided to find a job for me that was not grading, as it would have been entirely impossible for me to just read the instruction manual and then grade some exams (although that is what the training consists of). After pointing out that I was the youngest person there by about ten years and therefore must be far more tech-literate than anyone else, she proceeded to hand me a stack of poster papers that had been used the day before to find out what the teachers who were now grading thought the students' "strengths" were on the exam and what their "weaknesses" were. I spent three hours inputting these into a Word document that will now be emailed out to all the schools in any way associated with that grading center, after which the message will promptly be ignored by all of them.

While completing this very important task (infinitely more important than teaching my students about the integration of public school in the 1960's- what I'd actually planned to do Tuesday), I was able to sit back and observe the scoring process. The teachers grading the exams seemed really to be a motley crew. Such a variety of hair styles (spanning at least five style decades) I've not seen in the DOE, to say nothing about the skill and diligence with which they worked. To be serious, from what I can tell they seemed pretty competent and willing to get the job done as quickly, accurately, and efficiently as possible.

What most concerned me was the way these graders were spoken to by those in charge of the site. The woman in charge of the whole shebang kept making announcements like, "We want to be fair. We want to make sure our students get the best chance possible." These were of course given after muffled conversations about how poorly the students seemed to be doing. I couldn't help but give her sideways glances over the top of the laptop. Was she serious? The "chance" she was referring to was supposed to be the instruction the students had already received, not how liberally those grading tests could bend the scoring rubric. Several announcements like this were made, and the administrators of the site had numerous hushed conversations about specific scorers that "needed to be talked to."

Dozens of boxes of scoring guides showed up around midday, apparently intended for a different site. When she called the person in charge of this delivery, she first sounded confused and then was told by the woman on the other end of the line to just give the materials to whatever school she could. Why they showed up to that testing site instead of the right one? No one knows. What happened at the site that was lacking these materials? No one seems to know. Why am I telling you? Mostly because I was the schmuck who had to arrange and rearrange boxes all afternoon in order to fit them all into a very small space in a gymnasium that was hardly full. I'm just glad I could help.

What's the moral of this story? In spite of how hard people work to defend the education system, it does need to flush out some of its workers, revamp the way it does things and start fresh some areas. One thing about this system that I've thought a lot about lately is that it does not have a market to drive change. This is because the central commodities are our children, their brains, and their growth as human beings. I do believe that this is one of the reasons teachers and other in the field are resistant to change. We are the ones who work with these children and we do not want to see policies implemented that forget about their well-being for the sake of efficiency. That said, we do need to make sure middle school teachers aren't sent to random schools in the middle of the Bronx to move boxes all day when they could be helping students to learn material deemed valuable by the greater society (during a time period leading up to a state exam that may eventually be used to judge his competency as a teacher).

Today's Wine: A glass Casa De Campo Cab pumped from the other night.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Crazy State Exams

In New York there are two tests that matter in the eighth grade: ELA and Math. Our students took both of these tests over the course of the past two weeks and I was especially happy with what I saw them do with the ELA exam. Their writing skills far exceed those of last year's eighth graders and I can't help but think that our concerted effort as an eighth grade team to promote those skills was a large part of that. During the exam I was given several reminders of how valuable their successes are, as they are achieved through far more difficult circumstances than their average peer around the state and country.

During one day of testing we had a milieu of interesting distractions. I was proctoring the exams in our multi-purpose room, which is located on the ground floor of the building facing the busy street outside. Directly above that street is a train trestle (only several yards from our third floor windows) on which trains are constantly arriving and departing as part of the NYC subway system. Needless to say they are rather loud- so much in fact that I had to pause no less than seven times while reading a passage that was part of the listening comprehension section of the ELA exam. In addition to the noise of the trains, numerous buses went roaring by, as well as a few vehicles blaring sirens. At one point a "sick" woman passerby was outside of the window screaming at herself about a quarter. I couldn't tell if she was claiming someone had stolen it from her or if some kind of evil demon was a playing a trick on her that day, but it was pretty distracting. My students thought it was pretty funny, at the very least.

Inside of the building we were placed next to a classroom full of "energetic" sixth graders, divided by a movable partition. Because their test was on a slightly different schedule they had breaks while we were testing and vice-versa. This is a the class of sixth graders we have that has a large number of students who came with "mandated self-contained" on their IEPs- a classification that is generally abused to put the kids who have huge behavior problems into small, separate classrooms. Needless to say, sometimes they can be a bit noisy.

Even without all of these distractions I was surprised by how well the students did on these tests. If you'd plopped a group of soft, suburban students down in this environment I doubt they'd test half as well as they would in their regular setting. I know that at that age whenever I saw anything that even looked remotely like the block outside of our school it was incredibly unsettling. Perhaps our students would also be uneasy being plopped down in the middle of the suburbs, but I doubt it would have the same effect.

Another thing that was astounding this year, as it was last year, was the real sense of urgency the students seem to pull out of no where when the state tests come around. They know these two tests are important and that they will not be promoted to the next grade if they cannot pass them. It would be incredible to create this urgency in the majority of our students on a more regular basis, I can't help to think that it will also be incredibly difficult to do this as long as a large number of stakeholders (not just administrators or teachers) demand that students be socially promoted en masse.

What do other folks do to create this sense of urgency on a regular basis? My only half-smoking, cap guns are: reminders of the state test, vague references to high school and explanations of how I personally have used the skills I teach since high school. Hardly what I keep keep kids trucking along on the front line.

Today's Wine: Casa de Campo Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. I feel like my reviews of wine are generally very positive, which perhaps means my pallet is not yet refined enough, but it may also mean that the stores from which I buy wine know their stuff. This one was less than $7 at the Best Cellars at 86th and Lex and it was nice, a bit spicy and not too fruity. It was a solid cab.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Explicit Lyrics and Style Points

Today in class I was conducting a partially-bunk lesson on Vietnam that involved the analysis of a song from that period. Going into it I had a feeling it was too much for a single period, which meant the discussion at the end of class (probably the most educational part of the lesson) would potentially devolve into me telling students what the lyrics meant rather than allowing them to think about it for themselves, all the while being irritated at myself for being dense about time management and about the students talking too much and wasting a lot of time.

All of that happened, by the way, which left them with a shallow understanding of the war in Vietnam leading into tomorrow's guest presentation by a veteran of the war, but something else also occurred during my fifth period class that was at the very least amusing, if not helpful for me as we head toward the end of the year. After listening to Country Joe and Fish's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" and summarizing the stanzas, the students were to talk about how the music changed the meaning of the lyrics. That was fine for most of them, but one of my students located near my iPod had a much better idea about how he should spend his time.

Now, this year I've been much less paranoid about having my things stolen. I've left books out, my iPod sitting on my projector cart while I walk around the room, etc. Last year my students either destroyed or stole everything I brought in that was fragile or worth more than five bucks, so it's the huge improvement is reflected in my being able to move around my classroom without worrying about it long after the iPod has fallen silent. While I trust my students not to take all of my stuff, that doesn't mean they don't pick it up, look at it, carry it around and show it to other students. In this case the student located closest to my iPod reached over and started scrolling through the list of artists until he came to Eminem. From there he scrolled through the song titles until he found, "As* Like That," and it was all over. While kind enough not to blare it over the speakers the iPod was still attached to, a small contingent of my students started to whisper about the song, which caught my attention. What tripped them up was the fact that they never whisper in groups of more than two unless it's important or a big deal.

At first I thought they were just generally making fun of what was on the contraption, but they were hardly too shy to show me otherwise. They thought the song being on there was hilarious and said that, "I (had) a lot of explaining to do," trying to put me on the spot and waiting to see if I could think fast enough on my feet to get out of the situation. I learned too much about this last year (the hard way), which in part kept me from earning the respect of my students until near the end of the year- when I was too exhausted to be at all surprised or jarred by what my students did. This time, instead of coming off as if I'd been caught in some scandal, I just pocketed the iPod and walked off, tossing back over my should the direction to get back to work. While disappointed they didn't get a rise out of me, I could tell I'd earned points for that and more especially for having Eminem on my playlist.

Last year when I faced situations like this one I was always caught off guard. I was so paranoid about screwing up, being fired or reprimanded for doing or saying something wrong in my classroom. That was a lasting effect of hearing loads of stories of teachers being dismissed for seemingly trivial offenses (mostly in suburban schools, it seemed) while I was in the school of ed. When you get put on the spot for something like this, the students give you half a second to respond during which they'll be able to tell if you were even slightly jarred by whatever it was they discovered or heard or saw you do. Good luck getting a class back if they really want to rip into after an incident like that. That button is gigantic. In the mean time, you've got to learn to keep your mind from wandering through all of the worst-case scenarios. In short, you need to learn to react to situations like these quickly and in the appropriate way.

After school today I had the chance to sit around and chat with an esteemed colleague of mine. We talked about stakeholder accountability-something that's been on my mind lately. Within that vein what we spoke more specifically about what could be done to hold students responsible for their actions. In the setting we work in the only thing you can really hold over students is their respect for you. For the ones that give you the most trouble, if they do not respect you there is nothing you can do outside of a bribe to keep them in line. I think that idea would shock and appall my school-of-ed self, but it seems to be a reality on the front line. That version of me might also have found it shocking that I got style points for having a pretty bad Eminem song on an iPod in my classroom. I'll certainly take those point, however, as they'll help as we head toward the end of the year.

Today's Wine: Le Sciare Rocca Normanna 2008. This one was great and under ten bucks; medium-bodied, a bit fruity but also with a slight smokiness. I'd pick it up again.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Diet Pills and Overworked Teachers

A recent article in the New York Times covered the “invisible” burden of family doctors. People seem to oftentimes complain that doctors are paid quite a lot and in spite of that only really see them for a handful of minutes whenever they go in for a check-up. I think a common misconception is that doctors don’t work that much more than the time we see them, which is also a very common misconception of teachers.

The impression most adults have of the classroom is based on what they saw when they were going through school. Indeed teachers themselves are often guilty of falling back on their many years as a student and complaining about how teachers must have had it easier back then. Though I cannot speak to how much work was actually done by my own teachers, it was clearly more than what we saw of them in class. As with doctors, it seems as though what most people believe teachers do is simply stand in front of a class and deliver instruction and aside from that they might grade a few papers here and there, but life is easy once the students are gone.

Wrong and wrong. The article in the NY Times describes just how much family doctors are responsible for in addition to seeing 18 patients per day:
  • 24 telephone calls
  • Write 12 prescriptions
  • Read 20 lab/14 consultative reports
  • Review 11 x-rays
  • Send 17 emails
That does seem like quite a lot- certainly more than what the average patient might expect. While I cannot say how many hours it takes to complete all of those tasks, I’m sure it’s more than the semi-mythical forty-hour American work week.

How much do teachers do behind the scenes? It might vary widely, but here are things I am responsible for outside of classroom instruction (seeing 80 “patients”, in my case) on an average day:
  • Send ten emails per day
  • 4 telephone calls to parents
  • Writing out between four and ten detention slips
  • Making necessary copies for the day (in spite of using computers nearly every day, back-up copies are necessary for various reasons)
  • Grading 80 pieces of student work
  • Lesson Planning = research on the topic to be covered the following day, creating//finalizing/uploading a PowerPoint presentation and creating a new webpage for each day’s lesson (which will hopefully turn into simply updating those pages next year)/figuring out a way to differentiate instruction for students who cannot read and write and those who can better than most of the students in our high school.
  • One 45-minute meeting, generally centering on teacher collaboration
  • Sweeping of my classroom in the middle of the day after its use by another teacher
  • One hour of punitive duty (paperwork for detention documentation, holding detention, etc.)
  • Completion of at least one form necessary to support students with IEPs, to continue receiving breakfast for the students I have early in the morning, paperwork necessary for payroll, etc.
  • Meeting with one to five students during my lunch or after school hours to help them catch up or give them extra support
The program being set up for doctors is meant to pay them extra for improving preventative medicine within their practice. It’s meant to recognize that these doctors work an incredible amount to keep their patients healthy, but also that they will produce healthier citizens if they can ensure there are no ailments to treat. Personally, I think its a great idea and hopefully it will shift people's attention to healthy living rather than medical cures for ailments they probably brought upon themselves in one way or another.

I’m of the opinion that many of the issues in medicine mirror issues in education. Perhaps preventative medicine can be likened to solid teaching practices, as preventative medicine keeps you healthy and keeps you on track to stay that way, while sound educational practice keeps students on track to learn the skills they need be successful later in life (reading, writing, critical thinking, etc.). To take the analogy further, test-prep curricula might be likened to a diet pill. Both might get the results you want initially, but they generally cannot sustain a healthy way of doing things in the long term.

Like most of America, I have a lot of respect for the field of medicine. It’s one of the world’s oldest professions and is one in which the professionals have devoted their lives to helping others. In that way, and in many others, the field is like education. The best doctors and the best teachers work endless hours tirelessly to provide support to their fellow community members, hoping to provide them with what they need to be healthy and successful. Perhaps one day we'll figure out a way to pay teachers for their extra efforts in developing and maintaining solid teaching practices for students rather than simply looking at which teachers hand their students diet pills to tease results out of standardized tests.

Today's Wine: JP Azeitao Tinto. This one is under ten dollars and was a great deal. It was a bit fruity, but not a fruit bomb and was smooth all the way through. I give four stars out of five.