Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Highly Ineffective Principal: Clerical Error

A certain principal writes a letter for the school yearbook.  In his message, Roosevelt Principal Dr. Steven Strachan tells the graduates how proud he is of them and that they are a class of “great leaders, articulate orators, brilliant scientists, breathtaking athletes and extraordinary artists.”

He plagiarized the message.

Word for word. All of it.

From a principal in CA, uncredited.

But, but, but, but ... he "asked permission to quote"!

Here's the best part:
"I sincerely apologize to the Roosevelt community and to the class of 2014 for the inadvertent clerical error causing mistakes to be printed in the 2014 yearbook. An unedited draft of my remarks was accidentally published rather than the final version, and I take full responsibility for the oversight."
 Clerical error? A clerical error is misspelling the name of the guy you're quoting, or writing that the year is 2041. A clerical error is the yearbook editor rearranging the paragraphs inadvertently. A clerical error does not include you plagiarizing the entire message from another principal and then congratulating the WRONG SENIOR CLASS at the WRONG SCHOOL.
The Roosevelt principal even concluded his message like Barone did, writing, “Congratulations to the Albany High School Class of 2013.”

Blaming your plagiarism on the yearbook editor's "clerical error" is low-class, especially when you phrase it "clerical error causing mistakes to be printed." Passive voice apology fuck-you?

My favorite part of this is that he takes "full responsibility for the oversight." If one of his students did that, suspension would be in order. Nothing is happening to him ... he doesn't even have to pay the piddling amount of money for the reprint: the last line of the piece mentions that the pages are being reprinted with $800 from the "Principal's Discretionary Fund."

In case you're not familiar with public school budgetary BS, that's a slush fund that the principal may use at his discretion. Usually, it's used for things like buying a poor senior her cap and gown, or funding some low-income students tickets to a show that other kids are going to. Maybe supplying the SpecialEd department with some bit of tech that they can't get under normal budgets. Feel-good stuff or charitable-type things.

Educator of the Year.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Daily Schedule, or Why do we do this?

When Amnesty International works to ban a practice in prisons, you might want to rethink doing it in schools.

My school has 1.5 hour blocks separated by 3 minute passing times.  Long ago, I began to tell students that I didn't want to know when or if they were going to the bathroom, just go one at a time and don't dawdle.

"It's none of my business. The pass is right there. Carry it to get yourself past the AP.  I don't need to know why ... TMI, people."

You know what? They go if they need to. But the vast majority doesn't abuse that and class runs just fine.

"I know that sometimes you don't really need to go, but that you need to walk down the stairs, across the building and up the other stairs and then back.  Just realize that when you get back, we will be focused on something and you'll have to pick up the thread quickly. Be ready."

Yes, I admit. That kid in the third row goes every day. He's a wanderer and the AP gets on his case and wants me to restrict his movement, but I refuse. Having him sit and fidget and whine will only distract everyone -- far more than if I just let him go -- and letting him get it out of his system means that he can focus when he returns.

If the situation calls for it, I will ask him directly, "Do you NEED to go? These instructions are important and you'll need to be ready to start this when you get back. Can it wait?"

I don't like it much but it's necessary. 

Admin bitches about tardiness, yet we give them 3 minutes to move two floors and across to a different building. We are told to stand at our doors so we can greet the students but also to monitor the hallway and ensure the kids are moving in an efficient way.

Admin stresses about teaching "bell to bell" -- for 90 goddam minutes -- as if the stresses we put on students don't count. "Teach to the bell" means that kids have to write, think, or be doing something right to the last second, then collect all their stuff, make it down the hall or further, get into the next room and be seated before the tardy bell.

In three minutes?

Why do we torture kids in this fashion?

They have a cup of coffee in the morning to help wake themselves up ... and caffeine is a diuretic. who in their right mind thinks that students will be able to take care of business AND walk to the other building in just three minutes?  Apparently, we do.

At lunch, many will down a 3/4L bottle of Gatorade.

We're all instructed to let the kids drink as much water as they want. We're reminded that 8 cups of water is necessary, so water is the only thing we're all supposed to allow in class -- and many students have a water bottle and the school just installed those nifty water fountain extensions with the reusable bottle filler spout thing.

But you can't go to the bathroom? Does anyone understand how the human body works?

Apparently not.

What brought this up?  Taught by Finland, "For every 45 minutes of classroom instruction in Finland, students are entitled to a 15-minute break. This is guaranteed by law!"

I love this guy. He's an American teacher who moved to Finland and is a teacher there. Well worth reading regularly. What set him off? This Chicago Administrator's note:
In addition to scheduled restroom breaks, students will be given restroom passes to use if they need to use the restroom outside of the scheduled time. Students will be given two restroom passes to use between now and the end of the quarter. They can choose to hold on to them and trade them in for a reward at the end of the quarter. Following these guidelines:

Have students fill in their names as soon as they receive them. Passes are invalid if names are crossed out for another name.

 For the upper grades, students can use one teacher's pass in another classroom, but they still only get the same number of passes per quarter.

 Use a class roster to have student initial next to their name to indicate that they received the passes.

 Have students fill in the "time out" and "time in" and then turn the pass in to the teacher when finished. This will help them practice the [Common Core Standards] of telling time with both digital and analog clocks.

 Promote the benefit of not using the passes by reminding students that rewards will be given for left over passes at the end of the quarter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Teacher Preparation in the US

from Pasi Sahlberg
In the United States, for example, there are more than 1,500 different teacher-preparation programs. The range in quality is wide. In Singapore and Finland only one academically rigorous teacher education program is available for those who desire to become teachers. Likewise, neither Canada nor South Korea has fast-track options into teaching, such as Teach for America or Teach First in Europe. Teacher quality in high-performing countries is a result of careful quality control at entry into teaching rather than measuring teacher effectiveness in service.