The Teachers' Scrounge

News and comments from the world of public education. A middle school math teacher shared what he learned today.

Monday, February 23, 2009

State Rep. Calls for More School Counselors

A new bill in the Texas legislature calls for more public school counselors. This one is sponsored by State Representative Eddie Lucio III (not to be confused with State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr who forgets that the "State" in his title is not optional).

Lucio wants one counselor per 300 students... the current required ratio is 1:500. His proposal also provides the funding required to make the switch.

In a separate bill, Lucio wants counselors to spend less than 10% of their time dealing with issues not related to guidance and counseling. (For those of you looking for a clock, that comes out to less than 35 minutes a day for doing cafeteria duty, using the restroom, unjamming the printer, waiting for the elevator... and I'm not sure if student scheduling is counseling or guidance.)
Says, the Rep:

"Even children at the elementary level have issues that come up on a daily basis, things that are bothering them that they want to talk to someone about," Lucio said. "That's what attracts people to the counseling profession in the first place. This is not something I dreamed up out of thin air. Experts in the field say 300 to 350 students per counselor is what the best practices models recommend."

To the link!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teacher Arrested During Traffic Stop Near School

In Keller, Texas, a second-grade teacher threw a "tantrum" during a traffic stop (for speeding) near her school. She started her discussion with the officer saying, "I'm a freaking teacher, and usually, usually you guys have some idea about that."

How do we know what she said? It was all recorded on audio. You can hear snippets along with the article online.

The teacher throws her license and insurance paperwork at the officer, then tries to drive off while he's printing the ticket. The officer tells her to park back where she was. Then the swearing and cussing begins. She peels back into her parking spot (squealing tires can be heard in the audio), and almost hits the officer. At this point, he decides to arrest the teacher.

Then comes the best part:
"You're not going to make an example out of me in front of every [expletive] parent in school!"

She's right... she's not much of an example now.

Now, I've gotten a ticket in front of the school before (and it was for speeding). Sure, everyone sees you, but it's not the end of the world. Being a teacher (or a tardy teacher) is no excuse for speeding through a school zone. I drive here everyday, I know what the limit is. I know there's a school right here! My ticket was entirely my fault. I do appreciate it when the officer is sensitive to the fact I have 30 rambunctious middle schoolers waiting for me and he is quick and efficient, but other than that...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Texting in Class Leads to Arrest

Some students have not yet learned that cooperation can usually make your life happier. Is this really the war you want to wage? Have you realized that if you carry a folder to class or pretend to do your work, you get in less trouble and get to do more of the things you want to do?

The Smoking Gun has an example of poor choices leading a student to unanticipated consequences.
  1. Student is texting in class. Teacher tells her to stop. She refuses.
  2. Teacher asks student to give up the phone. She refuses.
  3. Teacher calls campus police officer, student lies to officer, claiming she had no phone in class... her phone's not as school... she doesn't own a phone. Student's friends confirm she had phone in class, texting.
  4. Officer tries to phone dad, student gives false phone numbers... multiple times.
  5. Officer places student under arrest for disorderly conduct ($298 bail). Search discovers phone. Officer verifies phone was used to text dad during class.
  6. Student admits it's her phone & she was texting in class, but says the phone doesn't work, so she doesn't care if she gets it back.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Boulder's "Student Worker Club" Wants to Rename High School

This is kinda weird... the juxtaposition is... odd.

Boulder High School's Student Worker Party Club has a new initiative. Recently, the club staged a protest against the Pledge of Allegiance. Their new mission - renaming the high school. To Barack Obama High.

Hmmm... With friends like these...

I'm not an Obama fan, but I've got no problem renaming the school after him. Schools are going to be named after him. I can't imagine how much he would have to screw up in order for schools to NOT be named after him. So why not start now? But the Student Worker Club? The crew that hates the Pledge? What's up with that?


Monday, February 9, 2009

Schools Without Grade LEVELS!

A Colorado school district is implementing major reforms, including doing away with grade levels. Instead, students will work on key skills until they demonstrate mastery (at a 'B' level), then they will progress to new material at their own pace (which may be different in different subjects).

You can see more details in an online article, but there are some interesting aspects to this approach. I'm very curious what it will do to the notion of social promotion. Will there be students who remain stuck multiplying fractions and decimals on a 6th-grade level for 6 years? Because we've got that now.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Teacher Suspended for FACEBOOK Avatar

I don't understand this one, so I'm being careful. A Wisconsin teacher was placed on administrative leave because she posted a photo of herself with a gun on her facebook page.

I don't want to get suspended, so I have modified the photo. I have replaced the offensive item with a pretty puppy. (For those of you reading this on Facebook, go to my blog at The Teachers' Scrounge for the image.)

The news story from Madison has concerned quotes from both sides:
"I don't think it's appropriate," Buzzell told 27 News. "I'm not sure why this would be on the computer at all."

"I don't see anything wrong with it," school parent Mark Hagstrom said. "She's on her time to do what she wants."
An image of a gun shouldn't be on the computer at all?! What if she's in the Reserves? Or her brother is? Or... well, lots of things. Does this photo really merit suspension? I could see ASKING her to consider removing it (which she has done).

I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt... sure her avatar looks like a sniper, but hey, my avatar looks like an Obama poster. I'm not about to vote Democratic, and I'm sure she's not about to hurt anyone.

What say you, Internet world? If you think this is bad, tell me why. I want to better understand what's going on.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tourette's in the (FRONT OF) the Classroom

Book Review: Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had. Brad Cohen had a tough time getting through school because of severe Tourette Syndrome. His experience as a student inspired him to "become the teacher [he] never had." His biography tells his story from the seat in time out to being named Georgia's First-Year Teacher of the Year.

When I describe this book to people, they are initially shocked that a teacher could have Tourette's, because of the misunderstanding that Tourette's causes uncontrollable swearing. Such cases are extremely rare. Tourette Syndrome normally manifests as muscle and/or vocal tics. In Cohen's case, he barks, twitches his head, whoops, shrugs his shoulders. This sort of thing.

Front of the Class is an inspiring story. Cohen has to overcome a lot. Restaurant owners want to kick him out, he's uncomfortable going to the theater, he interviewed at TWENTY-FIVE schools before a principal was willing to hire him.

Here's the part of the book I loved -- Cohen articulates his experience as a student in the classroom. In elementary school, his Tourette's had been undiagnosed (so few knew about this ailment at the time). His parent's were frustrated and didn't know how to deal with him. Teachers were irritated and fed up with his disruptions. By middle school, he was diagnosed, and his mom made it her mission to educate the staff and faculty at his school. Cohen would deliver a standard speech the first day of class describing his condition. And then, there was the middle school math teacher. Cohen says: This teacher KNEW I had Tourette's. knew what it made me do, but he decided I was making myself hiccup on purpose. So when Cohen let out a noise, he was sent to timout across the hall. Every day it happened.

How often do we do the same thing to our students? Instead of stopping to ask why they are doing this or that, instead of trying to modify instruction because of their limitations, we barrel through and demand they conform -- even if it's beyond their abilities.

I'm fortunate to be at a campus of professionals that do see the individual seated in the classroom, and not just the distractions that child is creating. But sometimes we need a reminder.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The burning (and exploding) question...

So one of the 3rd period kiddos today mentions a video game with a really cool "mini-game." (A small game-inside-the-game.) In this mini-game, the goal is to drive a car and create the most spectacular crash possible.

"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait, a minute!" I said.

You mean every time I show you some new math skill I'm confronted with this, "When are we ever gonna do this?" but when you're learning how to total a car, you don't bother to ask the same thing?? I mean, come on, why don't you send a letter to Nintendo and ask, "When will I ever throw turtles at mushrooms to try to save a princess?" How 'bout some equity here?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Are You Not Educated? -- "Arena Subbing"

The wild world of Daytona Beach. In the recent economic crunch, the Volusia County school district has slashed the budget for substitute teachers. Administrators have named the result, "Arena Subbing."

According to the article, high schools and middle schools have been forced to assign up to 200 kiddos to a PAIR of substitute teachers. They meet in the library or the "old gym."

Why not just scratch gym class and assign students to a day of gym when their teacher is absent? Wacky.