If the LAUSD Were a Dude, I Would’ve Broken Up With Him a Long Time Ago.

I just got another robo-call from the LAUSD.  It was the same one I got two weeks ago that said this:

Good evening.  This is Michelle King, Senior Deputy Superintendent of LAUSD.  I’m calling to announce the launch of an exciting new LAUSD contest called The 2012 Bright Idea Challenge. What’s your bright idea that can help LAUSD save money, resources, and time?  We believe some of the best ideas come from the classroom, faculty lounge, parent centers, and homes of our students and employees.  So with that in mind, we want to hear your ideas on how the district can save money.  And more importantly, we want to reward you and the school of your choice.  The 2012 Bright Idea Challenge runs from now through May 11 and is open to all LAUSD students, employees, and parents.  The contestants whose ideas get the most votes in the students, employees, and parent categories will receive trophies, recognition, and the opportunity to choose an LAUSD school to receive $3,000 towards the purchase of educational equipment, supplies, or materials.  Submit your idea now at mybrightidea.lausd.net and share your thoughts with us as we follow the My Bright Idea Challenge on facebook/losangelesschools and on twitter @LASchools.  Don’t delay.  We’re only taking submissions until May 11.  Visit mybrightidea.lausd.net and click on the “submit your idea” button.  Thank you.

This is the first time in my 16-year teaching career at LAUSD that I’ve EVER been asked my opinion.  EVER.

You’d think after using the ‘Sink or Swim Method of Creating Successful Teachers’ they might ask about my mad teaching skills but, sadly, I’ve learned, they don’t care.  And I’ve certainly never been offered a trophy when I successfully taught the 14-year-old-drug-addicted-gangsta AND his baby momma to write a five paragraph essay.

Instead, I was made to attend professional development meetings where poorly researched ideas about small learning communities were forced on me.  At the time, I wasn’t sure why the LAUSD spent all those years implementing an idea that no one seemed to believe in, but now I know that in doing so, they received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Gates Foundation.

I don’t have a problem with prostitution, but If you’re going to whore me out and call it “Professional Development” at least be honest about it.  And maybe kick down a pizza.

At my school the SLC debacle looked like this: teachers spent thousands of collective hours creating curriculum that was never used, counselors were given ridiculous amounts of extra work to try and smash a puzzle piece into a space where it didn’t fit, a few offices got painted, and LAUSD’s entire system of teacher seniority was turned on its head.

SLCs failed (students didn’t learn any more than before, drop-out rates didn’t decrease) but no one ever said anything about it.  Not even, “sorry for wasting your time.”  SLCs simply disappeared.

It seemed as if those hundreds of millions of dollars from Gates were wasted, but he’s not a stupid man. He got exactly what he wanted: to tear apart our union.

The Bright Idea robo-call that I got tonight smelled of Gates and his billionaire boyfriends, so I went to the LAUSD website.  In fine print way down at the bottom, it states that the monetary awards are donated by the Wasserman Foundation.

The Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation are investing heavily in the destruction of public schools and teachers unions in order to promote their for-profit agenda.  They are social engineers who fund media outlets and politicians in order to mass manipulate public perception.  They pay the salaries of 80% of LAUSD’s upper echelon administrators which means that the relentless assault on public school teachers is coming from the inside and out.

The crazy conclusion that I am able to draw is this:  The Wasserman Foundation, which is partially responsible for the current destruction of public education, is now asking the people it’s trying to destroy for ideas on how to save money.

Seriously?  You’re going to rob me, then ask me to clip coupons for you? And give me a fucking trophy if I do a good job?

Does asking for teachers’ opinions after mainstreaming negative propaganda that devalues us make the Billionaire Boys Club feel better?  Does it justify their attack on public education?  Can they sleep better at night on their thousand-count Egyptian cotton sheets, threaded with 22-carat gold?

They’ve already forced my colleagues, who have devoted their lives to teaching inner-city kids, to re-apply for their jobs at charter schools that have no unions.  And even though their charter school agenda is doing nothing in terms of improving education, they’ll now be able to fire senior teachers and replace them with lower paid automatons or educational software.

Clearly, Wasserman, you don’t need my ideas on how to save money.  Your think tank is on it.

But I have to say, tonight, when I saw that number on my phone and I answered that second robo-call, I felt like a teenage girl struggling with the frustration of unrequited love:  “Why, LAUSD, did you finally reach out to me, only to ask such a selfish and irrelevant question?  It’s the first thing in 16 years, that you’ve ever wanted to know about me. And your question implies my strong pedagogical foundation is superfluous. Can’t you, LAUSD, just for a moment, notice how great I am?”

The good news is, I’m not that teenage girl.  I have no hope that the LAUSD will be able to stop looking through Wasserman colored glasses long enough to see the importance of good teachers.  In fact, good teachers have become the enemy of current political and economic educational agendas.  Good teachers want to talk about teaching and learning.  Wasserman, Gates and their bros want to talk about money.  And I can’t support that.

Y’all can keep your trophy.

May 1, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 10 comments.

Pot And Pee In Your Classroom? What Would You Do?

Here’s a comment from yesterday’s post that every LAUSD high school teacher can relate to:

 

Steve commented:

I’ve been a teacher in LAUSD for 10 years. This year is my first year in a new school. My room is at the end of long hallway on the 5th floor. Most students take the stairs at the front of the hallway. Teachers take the elevator. Just outside my room is the back stairs, which is “no man’s land.” All the walls are tagged up and trash litters the ground. Nearly every day students smoke weed out there during lunch. Many a post lunch period starts with my students filing into my room, smelling the smoke from the back hall, and slyly commentating
, “Mister, what have you been doing during lunch? ha, ha, ha”
Kind of humiliating. I have emailed the Dean. I have spoken with my vice Principal. I keep bringing the back hallway problems up, and it is barely acknowledged. I get the feeling that I am getting an reputation for being a malcontent. Lately some students have been urinating back there, so that really helps the aroma. I’m not sure what to do.

 

And here’s my reply:

 

Dear Steve,

I feel your pain. I’ve taught in many classrooms that were next to “no man’s land,” and been subjected to the same humiliations of having my classroom smell like pot, or urine, or smoke bombs.  The thing is, every inner city school has this place, and with the dramatic cuts to school funding and staff, we are less equipped to tackle the problem.  Even the public high school I graduated from in 1987, which wasn’t a ‘bad’ school, had “stoner alley.”

Here are my suggestions:

1.  Work on getting a new room for next year.  In the meantime, bring some air-freshener.

2.  Prop your door open with a chair.  Eat your lunch in the chair and keep a blow horn next to you.  Every time you hear anyone in the stairwell, blow the horn.  Do this every day for two weeks, then at random intervals.

3.  Find some students who need to clear detention hours.  Have them pick up trash in the stairwell for five minutes every day after lunch.

4.  Talk to the principal.  Let her know that the smells of marijuana and urine are so strong that they’re interfering with you’re your instructional activities.  Ask her what you can do to help.

5.  Talk to the dean in person.  If you’re new to the school it’s important to develop relationships with the people who can help you.  Also, as frustrating as your problem is to you, try to remember that you don’t know what the dean is dealing with.  Maybe at the same time he got your email, a homicide detective came into his office to get some information about a student, or maybe he just broke up a fight and had two bloody teenagers sitting in his office, or maybe he just found out that a student who is on probation brought a knife to school and now he has to call the LAPD.  Deans in the LAUSD deal with this kind of stuff all the time and most teachers aren’t aware of it.  So, when he gets a complaint about garbage/tagging/pot smell in the hallway, (that he probably already knows about) and doesn’t respond right away, it’s not that he doesn’t care, but he has to prioritize.

6.  Keep in mind that taggers and pot smokers are two of the most challenging and time consuming non-violent criminals to find on a high school campus.  They’re entire MO is being covert.  They know the laws, they know what they can get away with, and they use this to their benefit.  In order to legally cite a vandal or drug user, there has to be a reliable eye-ball witness who is willing to go to court, and there has to be evidence.  Unfortunately, deans, school police, and other safety staff are often so focused on citing and/or preventing violent crimes on campus, that the non-violent offenders don’t get the attention they deserve.

7.  Get to know the plant manager and maintenance workers.  In my opinion, the plant manager of a school is just as important as the principal.  She knows what’s behind every door and she has the keys to all of them.

8.  I know you only get paid to work six hours a day, and you’re already working 10 hours and 40 minutes a day, so I don’t think you should work any more hours for free to help solve this problem.  But, while principals no longer have the funding to pay teachers for doing extra work, they’re usually willing to get creative with the budget they do have.  Ask your principal to buy you a sub for one period (this is actually free for her since the subs already working have a “free” period), get a can of paint and a roller from the plant manager, put on your overalls and get to work!

9.  Whistle while you work.  If you look like you’re having a great time painting the hallway, you might be able to convince a few other teachers to join in.  Just imagine, if one teacher on each floor was willing to sit at his door with a blow horn during lunch and make some noise, y’all could have that place pristine by spring break. (Of course, there will be a break-in over spring break and you’ll have a whole new mess to deal with, but that’s another blog post.)

10.  Keep your chin up.  The first year at a new school sucks.  But I’m pretty sure it always gets better.  In the meantime, if you decided to try any of these ideas, take some pictures of your progress – I’d love to post them here.

 

If you have suggestions for Steve, please leave them in the comment section.

 

 

March 21, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 10 comments.

“Teachers’ Working Conditions are Students’ Learning Conditions” *

The mold in my classroom was already there the year I moved in, but it didn’t concern me too much.  Throughout my 16 year teaching career I’d worked in two schools, several different classrooms, and several different offices in the LAUSD.  I’d seen some weird stuff and had worked in much worse conditions.

But then it started to spread. I took some pictures and showed them to my AP:

Months passed and the entire perimeter of the ceiling contained mold and the tiles began to sag:

Then, one weekend, L.A. got hit with some unexpectedly hard rain and when I entered my bungalow on Monday morning, it looked like a tsunami had hit.  Water had saturated every wall, ruining every poster, piece of student work, and bulletin board in the room.  My classroom library, that I’d purchased mostly myself, had been displayed on the aluminum marker rail on my whiteboards and was in the direct path of the rainwater.  Every book was soggy and warped, some of them sat in puddles on the floor.  These were the books that my FBB** students, many of whom admitted they had never actually read a book, were reading.

The seven classroom computers, which were an integral part of my curriculum, had also been rained on.  Moldy bits of tile littered the technology.  Hard drives sat in pools of stagnant water.  Again, and with a much greater sense of urgency, I told my AP.

Four hours later, one of our maintenance workers showed up with a bucket and mop. “I was told you need a clean up over here?” he asked me with a smile. (This was a guy whose wife had a baby about a year after my daughter was born.  He was often the recipient of my daughter’s hand-me-down clothes and toys, and our families had become acquainted outside of school.  He was always willing to go the extra mile for me.)

Before I could answer he took a visual survey of the room. “Holy sh!t. Your room got hit hard,”  was his response after I’d already been cleaning up for four hours.  He pulled the remaining bookshelves and file cabinets away from the walls, lined the floor with stacks of paper towels, and mopped the larger puddles.  All of this was happening while I was supposed to be teaching.

He laughed and shook his head when he saw the bucket I’d placed on the floor to catch the water that was still dripping from the ceiling.  It was the “emergency” bucket that every LAUSD teacher has in case the school goes on lockdown and students are forced to stay inside the classroom for several hours.  The bucket is supposed to be used as the class bathroom, and teachers are encouraged to bring their own sheets from home to hang from the ceiling in case a “private” area needs to be created.  (There’s actually a safety video out there, somewhere in the LAUSD, that demonstrates different ways to use the sheets as walls so that students can poop in the bucket without their classmates watching.)

The janitor left as the tech guy (another friendly person who always gave me a heads up when there was a sale on diapers at amazon.mom) arrived.  He spent the rest of the day dealing with my soggy electronics and had everything dried out and working by the week’s end.  The rain stopped and I was able to put the emergency bucket back in the closet, but nothing else happened to fix the ceiling problem.  It bugged me, but I had some teaching to do.  The battle of the moldy, saggy ceiling was one I had neither the time, nor the energy, to fight.

But then, a few months later, it started to rain again.  Coincidentally, a colleague/good friend/the guy who was in the bungalow the year before me, stopped by that morning to talk about lesson plans.  He looked at the ceiling and said, “Wow, they still haven’t fixed that?  I reported it to the AP when I had this room last year.  My students kept getting sick and I think it could have been from the mold.”

Infuriated, I bypassed AP, found the principal, and told him that I thought the reason I kept getting upper respiratory infections was because of the black mold growing in my classroom.  I showed him the pictures.  He said it was the first he’d heard of it and that he would take care of it.

Fifteen minutes into my next class, AP showed up (the one whose head I’d gone over).  He would not look me in the eye.  “You’ve got five minutes to get your things together.  We’re evacuating your classroom indefinitely.”

“Five minutes?  But I teach a computer-based reading program. There is nowhere else I can teach these classes that you mandated I teach.”

He shrugged and mumbled while I grabbed my purse, my lunch, and my lesson plans.  My textbooks weighed at least 34 lbs. each so those were left behind.  That day I taught my classes on the football field.  The next day it was my responsibility to find empty classrooms to use, and I had to travel to a new one for each class.

One week later I was given the green light to return to my room.  Turns out the mold wasn’t toxic.  That same day an animal (that turned out to be a raccoon) died under my bungalow.  The smell of the rotting carcass was so intense, one of my student’s threw up.  Again, I was displaced as the LAUSD carpentry department was called in to rip up the floor and locate the dead body.  We also had to wait for animal control to remove it.

Weary of our circumstance, but relieved to get some fresh air, my FBBs trekked back to the football field to read, “The Lady or the Tiger?”.

 a quote from Diane Ravitch in her speech on Public Education, Privatization, and Professionalization.

** Far Below / Below Basic: This level represents a serious lack of performance. Students demonstrate little or a flawed understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by this assessment, at this grade, in this content area.

March 20, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Check Out “The Rav” on Pub Ed

If you’re a teacher, if you have kids, if you care about public education, if you care about the future of democracy in America, or if you’re generally a good human being, you need to watch this.  It’s a big deal.

Also, if you work at a school and you’ve got juice with the people in charge of PD, suggest they show this video to the entire faculty and staff.

(The sound quality isn’t great so I suggest turning on the auto caption.  Sometimes it messes up though and when she says “ed reformers” it translates as “ed farmers”.)

Dr. Diane Ravitch on Public Education, Privatization, and Professionalization

March 18, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Ready to Learn

Image

First question:  How did he make it through his first three classes and nutrition wearing that?

Second question:  California Standards Test – does he have an app for that?

March 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

RIF Me, Please. I Can’t Afford to Teach.

I’m going to sound like a total a-hole, but will someone RIF me, please?  If you’re one of the thousands of teachers in the LAUSD who got a Reduction in Force notice, I will happily trade my job for your un-employment.

I’ve got three year old twins and childcare runs about $600 a week.  After all the furlough days that hit LAUSD teachers over the last few years, take-home pay is about $1,200 a week.  So for me, after childcare, take home pay is about $600 ($280 in a five week month).  Unemployment is currently $450 a week.

You get the idea?

March 16, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Without Labor Unions, We’d Have no T.G.I. Friday’s

Thanks to labor unions, the United States has what is commonly known as “the weekend.”

If it weren’t for the awesome things unions have done, you wouldn’t hear things around the office like, “It’s Friday, let’s go to happy hour,” and you wouldn’t hear people ask, “Is it Friday yet?” on all the other days of the week.

Without unions, you’d be working all day Saturday and Sunday along side your little nieces and nephews, hoping that no one got sick because you wouldn’t have any health insurance.

Unfortunately, and mostly due to the incomprehensibly demoralizing movie, Waiting for Superman, many Americans seem to think that teacher unions are the enemy, that their primary purpose is to prevent bad teachers from being fired. The Waiting for Superman-ers believe that if we could get rid of unions, we could get rid of those horrible teachers that are ruining America, hire some new ones (preferably trained by Bill Gates himself), then *poof* everyone would be ready for college.

The Waiting for Superman-ers think that charter schools are a good idea when, in fact, charter schools are statistically no better than public schools.  (I know, I know, the charter school your kid goes to is awesome.)

But, charter schools don’t provide their teachers with union representation, and that’s kind of a big deal.

Today, teachers in charter schools have to do things like work extra hours (on top of the extra hours they already work) for no pay, take on extra administrative duties that they aren’t trained for, or work in buildings that have no windows.  What happens if their medical benefits are cut?  Or they’re suddenly faced with an oppressive or discriminatory supervisor?  What happens if their “good” teacher rating turns “bad” one year, as often happens with the Value-Added Model?

More than likely, he or she will get canned, then replaced with one of the thousands of unemployed teachers in Southern California who, at this point, are probably willing to do even more work for less money.  This cycle could continue ad infinitum, but the LAUSD would remain the second worst school district in the country because the real problems haven’t been addressed.

To all the teachers out there who are struggling to get all your grading done before Monday, don’t work too hard.  To the rest of you, have a nice weekend.

March 9, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 5 comments.

Could You, Would You On a Train? Would You, Could You in the Rain?

I’m taking a poll.  If you could switch careers today and become a public school teacher, would you?

March 7, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 10 comments.

Teaching to the Test

March 6, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Does This Add to my Value as a Teacher?

I got this note after I told a former student to stop doing the drugs.  It seems to me, by the ‘Thank you’ in the note, that I made valuable contribution to her life. But unless, after quitting the drugs, this student developed an obsession with becoming proficient in the California State Standards in English, the value that I added doesn’t really matter.

The majority of the students I’ve taught over the past 16 years have been labeled ‘at-risk’.  They’ve scored far below basic on standardized tests and often enter the 9th grade reading at a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade level.  Many external factors contribute to their ability (or inability) to learn: drug use, learning disabilities, a family that’s never home, transiency, poverty, to name a few.  Some of these obstacles have to be addressed before a student is willing or able to learn and with budgets cutting support staff out of schools, the responsibility of helping students with matters beyond the curriculum, rests almost exclusively with teachers.

Notes like this are common among the inner-city teachers I’ve worked with. Even the bad ones. I’m sure Rigoberto Ruelas‘ desk drawer was full of them.  It’s too bad our politicians, our media, and our billionaires don’t take the time to notice.

March 5, 2012. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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