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It’s not ok, Bradley Cooper!

Published May 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

And, by the way, I don’t really have much sympathy for Tim Allen.

Yes, I understand that he was blindsided by the cancellation of his hit show. I know that must be a buzz kill.  He also was arrested for trying to sell cocaine. I am also aware that he did that in 1978 before his other hit show was on the air.

What I also know in his career as a performer he has had TWO hit shows both in syndication and his provided the vocal talent for three hit movies.

As the girlfriend of one professional actor, the amazing S. Lamar Wilson and the mother of another the equally talented Dustin Kane Nolen, I know what a struggle it is to find paid acting gigs. It is also a major crapshoot just to get cast in a pilot episode, not to mention the huge gamble involved with the series getting picked up by a studio, and surviving past one season.

Getting two series that survive to syndication is amazing. Tim Allen got two bites at that apple and now I’m supposed to feel outrage at his show’s sudden cancellation?   I’m sorry Mr. Allen, I’m too busy choking on my own rage about something else.

I stopped my rant about education in mid-stream.  This is because there are things going on in my real life that are even scarier than Midnight Meat Train (starring Bradley Cooper and not really scary, although Batman would have preferred I not bray like a donkey while he was trying to watch it.)

I’m just going to lay it out as I have to both my Financial Adviser and a colleague of his.

In regards to my current employment situation.

This is the  current situation at Kauffman Leadership Academy as of yesterday, May 16.

The dates for Payroll are the 10th and the 25th.  Our April 25th paychecks were issued on on May the 7th. At the faculty meeting earlier that week, we were told that the hold up was due to an error at TEA regarding the payment in TRS. (Apparently the Superintendent of our school did not pay TRS.)

We were also told that May payroll would be honored and on time.

May 10th came and went with the excuse that there was no money to pay us and that if funds were  not available prior to the May 25th payroll, we would receive a check equal to the entire amount.   To my knowledge no effort on the part of the administration or the board has been made to get the teachers paid.

I am starting to feel like a chump because I’m allowing myself to be treated this way. I don’t like feeling like a chump. I’m talking about this now because I have made it very clear, and in a public forum, to the administration of my school how I feel.

Here is the statement I made at our faculty meeting:

This has been a very trying year. Some of it due to a new school’s growing pains, some due to a lack of communication on the part of the administration. I do take partial ownership in this because I have not always spoken freely.

That is due to the fact that the time I met with you speaking in full honesty about the perception of misdoing in the school I was met with what I felt was a defensive, dismissive tone.

From that point, I have seen a deterioration  of morale amongst the faculty and some of the students. I am watching our students grow gradually more disrespectful and have felt powerless to stop them because there are no clear cut consequences.

I have tried to stay hopeful. All of my efforts have failed and hope has abandoned me after five late paychecks this school year; the latest one the third in a row.

I am currently out of money. It is very hard to find the motivation to drive to work and teach my students. I feel as if I am being taken advantage of because I do not want to abandon my colleagues or my students.

I do not believe that I will receive partial or full payment on May 25th and I will not be able to sit with parents at the conference on the 26th and pretend that everything is fine and business as usual.

I am actively seeking other employment . Because I do not believe KLA will be able to pay me through the summer, since I’m not being paid now, I need to seek part-time employment for the summer. The problem with this is that most summer jobs begin on June 5.  We are still in school until the 9th.

I propose that you consider ending school on the 25th and use the conferences on the 26th to have the final meeting with the parents.  This way the teachers can return after Memorial Day to clean their classrooms and fully wrap up the school year.

The response I was given is that to be paid throughout the summer as per my contract, the school must stay in session until June 9 as it is in our charter with TEA (Texas Education Association). At this meeting the entire faculty was told that we would receive a full paycheck on May the 25th, June 25th, July 25th and August 25th.

And if I don’t get paid on the 25th?

That will not be ok, Bradley Cooper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It continues

Published March 16, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

(This is the rant, continued.)

So what else is 610 going to do?

I’m so glad you asked. Bill 610 will repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  Let’s break it down a bit further. This Act  is the main K-12 law. (For those of you who don’t know, this means kindergarten through twelfth grade. This law affects students from the ages of five to eighteen.)

The latest version of this Act is called Every Student Succeeds.   If this law is repealed, equal opportunity protections for students would go away. This would largely affect Special Education students.

How would this madness happen? Well, under the current law, any school that receives federal funding, which is every public school in the United States, must have resources available for Special Needs students.  This includes Individual Education Plans. This means that every student who has a disability as designated by their school would be affected by the removal of this law.

For the uninitiated, disabilities range from the obvious, like a wheel-chair bound student, to a high functioning student with Asperger’s Syndrome.  There are also 504 designations which covers just about everything else in the alphabet soup of diagnoses. With out this funding the programs in place could suffer by losing qualified staff to dissolving completely.

In my school  of 81 students we have two students who are directly being served as a result of Special Education funding. One of them, let’s call him Marcus, has Tourette’s Syndrome. He also has several cognitive and developmental delays. This means in addition to being a squirrelly 12 year old, because all 12 year olds are squirrelly, he also has the Tourette’s ticks  and motor control issues. He also is on the academic level of a third grader.  His under-education is a direct result of of the mishandling of his case at his previous schools, meaning he was lost in the crowd and was too difficult to handle in a classroom of thirty-five students.  So instead of educating him, his previous schools isolated him.

Now that he is in smaller school, his disabilities were easy to spot and deal with. Fortunately many of our students are kind and welcome him into their large group activities. Marcus has a teacher whose sole job is to work with him as a result he has mastered the sight words of a grade level very close to where the rest of his classmates . He can already out perform many of them in basic math.

I mentioned Carl in an earlier blog. We are awaiting  a specific diagnosis for him, but for the time being he is also working with our Special Ed teacher. Carl is on grade level, slightly above it actually, but emotionally he has regressed to a five year old.  When he gets overwhelmed he gets violent.   (I can totally understand this; there are days when I want to get violent with some of my students.)

With out Special Education funding, both of these students would be isolated, possibly institutionalized. Neither of these students’ families can afford private education. Bill 610 would effectively doom these children to a life behind grey walls where they would be managed by indifferent under trained staff.

It is a head shaker, especially when you consider how many kids will be damaged by this.

Damaged kids become damaged adults.  I don’t want to know what will happen after that.

 

 

Challenges part 2

Published March 7, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

As I continue to push the mule that is Sixth Grade ELA up the hill (I’ll make it, but the view is terrible.),I attempt to lead by example. There are some days I wonder who the leader in the Taki crusade really is.

I have been fighting the battle of the Takis for the last three years.  For the fortunate few who do not know what Takis are, they are the spicy, crunchy snack fingers of Satan.  They are essentially a lower quality version of Flaming Hot Cheetos, which I also hate.  The main reason I hate these innocent corn products is that students eat them and then lick their fingers and then they touch things. Things like doorknobs, tables, chairs and me. It’s disgusting.

That leads me to another challenge faced by teachers everywhere.  Many of my students have food insecurity. This is not a problem faced by my school, city or state

An estimated 12.7 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2015, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. That is down from 14.0 percent in 2014. The prevalence of very low food security declined to 5.0 percent from 5.6 percent in 2014. Both declines are statistically significant.”

(https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=79760)

What that means is many of my students most of whom are in the middle of their growth spurts are not getting enough to eat on a regular basis. The ones who do get fed regularly do not eat well, hence the takis. I don’t know if the parents are aware that their offspring nosh on junk for most of the day, or if they don’t care or are simply too tired to argue with their kid anymore.

Case in point: One of my students, Carl (not his real name) has what is called ODD (oppositional defiance disorder, which was not a thing when I was growing up, but what do I know?) His mother is exhausted. She looks like she could fall asleep or have a nervous breakdown, possibly both.  Carl has a tendency to fly off the handle and he is a large, sturdy, sort. His grandmother told us that they used to be afraid of him, as in afraid he would injure them in the night.  (I know!)

Every day, Carl brings a sack of snacks for the day. I mean a grocery sack full of snack bars and the like.

Now Carl  is not in danger of starving, but I think he is nutritionally challenged and it’s possible that the constant stream of sugar is not helping him process information and remain calm.

Maybe I should just have a doughnut and shut up.

Challenges, part one

Published March 6, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

My students are working on research paper. It is the second semester for Sixth Grade English, so I don’t think I am asking too much for them to pull together some thoughts and academic rigor and organize said thoughts into a specific format while  using complete sentences. (I know, I also want to flap my arms and fly to the moon.)

They have known about this paper and I have had due dates, etc as we go through the process, so they know they have a rough draft due next week. I even gave them extra time because we lost a whole week because of a mad woman who was not me.

I am also required to make sure they have a unit of grammar and a unit of vocabulary each week.  You would think these things could happen concurrently, at least I thought that.

Last week I did a quick review of nouns.  I spent the first six weeks of school reviewing grammar and sentence structure in an old school way, with examples and interpretive dance. Imagine my chagrin when only three students could define a noun.

I wanted to scream, “Did all of you have a simultaneous brain injury?” I did not.

One of my students was home schooled and my colleagues and I are discovering that there are gaps in this child’s education. These gaps include major portions of math and the mechanics of writing and grammar. It doesn’t help that this student is extremely dyslexic. He was educated holistically, which means his teacher (mom) decide what curriculum they studied based on his interests.

Home school is fine option, especially for students who have special needs and other issues. I have a cousin who is homeschooling her son because he has several life-threatening allergies and the public school in their area doesn’t have a full-time nurse so there is no way for her to ensure that her child can access his medicine during the school day.

Holistic education is great if you have access to master quality teachers and if your child has the kind of discipline to stick to the topic and not just Bumble off into the distance.

Guess what kind of student this is?  

I don’t mean to pick on the Bumbler. He’s a sweet, kind child. He has the best of intentions and he is very smart. (He’s on very late and he’s won several awards.)

So last week when I was having my noun related tantrum, one of my colleagues asked the Bumbler, “Have you ever learned nouns before?” The Bumbler said, “I’ve heard of them, but I never cared to learn.”

That has stayed with me. “I never cared to learn.”

I find this challenging, but not in the way most people do.

Because it matters

Published February 20, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I haven’t written for a while. I have had many, many things to say, some of which I would be able to say without having to censor myself or even sedate myself too much. But I haven’t been focused enough to find the time.

You see, I am a teacher and as any teacher can tell you the one thing we always need is enough. Enough time, enough supplies, enough funding. There is never enough.

I haven’t written because I haven’t had enough time. I’ve been using it on other things.

The thing is this is the at least the tenth time I have sat down to write, but just haven’t.  I wanted to write about Fayth.

Last week one of my students was taken from us. It was unexpected and it was horrible. It was so horrible I can’t bear to allow the words for it to share the space with my memory.

Fayth Norman was a lovely bright girl. I do not use those words lightly. When I say lovely, I  mean exquisitely beautiful. Her white blonde hair floated down the hall as she laughed her way to class. She was bright in that light literally radiated from her smile.

Another student said talking to Fayth was like getting to see what a little bit of heaven was like. She made every day better and brighter.

I have been trying to avoid the actual gone ness of her because it makes me angry. Apparently my anger has been frightening people. (I’ve been a little tense for a number of reasons.)

Batman said something this weekend that resonated with me.  About an unrelated issue he said that he would like for someone to dig through all of the red tape and say, “I know it’s wrong, I know it doesn’t make sense. The rules say ‘this is what you’re supposed to do’ But you matter! Let’s throw away the rules.  Let’s go through this together and make it make sense. Because you matter.  We will find a different way. Because you matter. ”

This is exactly what I get to do with each of my students. And that’s why I miss Fayth. And why I would miss each and every other student if they were suddenly not there.

I can close my eyes and see the warm brown eyes and slow smile on one side of the room to the funny and goofy faces another student makes to amuse everyone. Then there is the one student who always does the exact opposite of what you think he will and it is hilarious every time.

And I will miss Fayth.

But I will not lose her.

She is right here in my heart.

Fayth mattered.

 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

Published February 3, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I haven’t blogged in almost a month. My heart feels grim. I do have a bit of hope, only because I must put on a mostly brave face for  my students.

What concerns me the most is the inability of the people around me to just think.  (I always have this concern, I’m just hyper aware of it right now. I often have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “What are you? Stupid? I know this is not a good attitude for a teacher to have.)

I am trying to lead by example and help my students become aware so that they can be good people and make informed choices. This is in addition to not voicing my actual opinions because as a public school teacher, I am not allowed to make a formal, public stand.

Two teachers in my area have been suspended for their political views.

One teacher in Dallas, Tx was suspended for shooting a water pistol at a picture of President Trump

A teacher in Joshua, Tx blatantly expressed her political views in her English Class. This apparently was illustrated by showing a picture of Hillary Clinton thinly disguised as Adolf Hitler.What does this have to do with teaching English?

I work with a former student of this teacher and he informed me that this person was a good teacher. Ok, that’s not the point. (This teacher is also one of the people who keeps trying to console my panic by saying, “It’s going to be ok.” He is a young, white male.  Yes, it’s going to be ok for HIM.)

I have no idea what motivated these teachers to do what they did. Regardless how you feel, as a teacher you are supposed to stay publicly neutral.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover.

As one of my students, a teeny little thing who weighs maybe 50 lbs said,”Shut your yaps and get to work.”

I think it’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

This time the banana is just a banana

Published January 7, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

School has begun again and I’m not sure if my brain is going to join me.  I’ve been having weird gaffes in my memory. That’s right, I mean gaffe, not gap.

I am remembering the important things like how to get to work and not to wear my underwear on the outside and how to teach without freaking out or cursing like a sailor. I survived the first three days back at school, herding squirrelly kids and marginally vexed parents.

I did, however, misplace a banana.

Our school day is about an hour longer than most other schools and I live a 30 minute drive from the school, so I usually need a snack in the late afternoon so no one has to die.  I am  making a concerted effort to eat better, so I brought a banana. (I also brought lemon slices to put in my water and to squirt on my salad, but the lemons reached their intended destination. I guess this signifies no prejudice against yellow produce on my part.)

I still don’t know where my banana went.

The school days themselves were fairly uneventful, but I’m still feeling a bit off kilter. Possibly because I’m waiting for the four unicorns of the Apocalypse to appear over the horizon (My Armageddon is more fabulous than yours!).

My Amanda Friend and ventured out to run errands together. One of the tasks we needed to accomplish was to return books to the library. (Amanda is a librarian in another city, so we rarely get to do this.)

I love books, as does Amanda, so this was a pleasant venture. As I scanned the shelves I noticed that the books on how to survive time in prison are nestled cheek to jowl with how to survive standardized testing. Well played, Melvil Dewey, well played.

I was checking out the new fiction and I began to work up a perfectly good grump about Genre Fiction. For those of you who are not book obsessed, Genre Fiction is just another way of classifying types of books. Chick Lit, Mystery, Urban and Christian are a few of the Genres.

I told Amanda that I feel that Genre fiction is just a way for a some book with a personal agenda to lure a reader in under the guise of a mystery or other plot-line and just when you are too invested to turn away, they drop the other shoe right on you.

Amanda didn’t understand why I was getting all het up about it, but it made me think about how sneaky fiction really is. Not to mention fiction writers. (I fancy myself a writer, but I also am very upfront about whatever my weird agenda is.) Case in point: James Patterson occasionally offers a Masters Class for writers. I recently saw an announcement proclaiming that Mr. Patterson was looking for a new ghost writer and he would select one from his roster of students.

I have long suspected that Mr. Patterson has a cadre of minions who help him dole out the reams of words that appear in shiny covers in various parts of the bookstore.

I said as much to Amanda and suggested that taking one of these classes was a good way to find yourself chained up right next to 699 other monkeys and their typewriters pounding out the next mystery or YA novel or romance or whatever else would fly from your paws.

My description included a guess as to what that writer’s room would smell like. This led me to wonder if anyone else would be able to keep up with that particular conversation and Amanda reminded me of another adventure we had that resulted in a narrative about the poo flinging possibilities of monkeys (Coming some from IFC!). Now I’m pondering if monkeys deserve the reputation they have or if just one monkey, one time did that and now they are all tarred with the same (poopy) brush.

I bet they know where their bananas are.

And we’re back