teaching

All posts in the teaching category

Well, there you go, part II

Published July 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Before anyone goes ber-bonkers looking for part I, I won’t be posting that until tomorrow. But the follow up is fresh in my crowded head so I’m going to put that one up first.  I can explain my process if you want, but I don’t think it’s very interesting.

Today I was meandering through my errands because it’s beastly hot and I didn’t really want to get anything done. As I walked from one place to the next, a woman called out to me and said, “Did you teach at Metro?”

My first teaching gig was teaching a theatre class at an alternative high school. I wasn’t a classroom teacher, but I was part of the curriculum for a psychology/health class. I taught basic acting and playwriting.  My students ranged from an emancipated sixteen year old who was trying to graduate as quickly as possible to go to college to a lesbian couple who was bullied out of their high school. Some students were former gang members and/or returning after dropping out.  Many of my students used the class as a way to process the bizarre events of their lives.

The woman who called out to me was a student of mine about twenty years ago.  We talked for awhile; she has raised four kids, three of her own, one adopted from a family member. She has finished court reporting school and is working and investing in her future.

She told me a little about her kids and the things she tells them about education. As I listened to her, I realized that I had heard some of things before; they were things I recall saying to different classes.

I told her I remember every student I have ever taught.  (I do, I’m just terrible with names.) I do remember her. I remember wondering how she would turn out and if she would survive high school.

She did. She graduated from high school and faced some challenges and is working very hard to instill the value of education in her children.

So there you go.

So this . . . .

Published July 2, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It is the beginning of the first full week of July and it is also the second week of my summer break.  I spent most of last week with BatBeard. It wasn’t enough time.  But as I said in regards to teaching, is there every enough? Have you ever spent weeks with a loved one and thought, “Well, that’s about enough time.”

Never.

I am very lucky to love and be loved by good, kind people. I don’t think I get enough of them.  But I’m also pretty sure I don’t get enough of me.

What, pray tell, do I mean by that?  Well, at the risk of sounding like a complete and total intellectual, elitist snob (although if you live in a house with a leaky roof and only have transportation because you have a very loving and giving mother can you really be called elitist?), William Wordsworth said it well, “The World is too much with us.” Poem is here.

A lot is being said about mindfulness and how we, as a society, should be practicing it. When did we get so damn busy and distracted that we have to practice paying attention? I certainly am guilty of losing track of the point (It’s a huge shock, I know. If I needed any more proof, not even an hour ago I was watching a movie while trying to walk across the room and stepped in the handle of a suitcase and fell, face first, into the bookcase.  Fortunately, I have a lot of practice with klutzing around, so I didn’t hurt myself, the books or the suitcase.  The cats were most entertained.

I have a month until my next teaching contract starts, so I have this time to take care of myself.  I plan to relax, organize, work out, read, relax, watch tv, relax, plan lessons, and relax (you may have noticed a theme; a recurring pattern is called a motif.)

As I focus on my health, mental and physical, I am reminded to free myself of distractions. What am I supposed to do if my mind, itself, is the distraction?

There is a lot going on in my head both physiologically and metaphorically (Are thoughts considered metaphors, they CAN weigh heavy but they are figurative. Maybe I should send my brain to a weight loss seminar.)  Even before my head blew up, my brain had a mind of its own, but it has gotten worse since my brain has healed. (There are those who say that I have just put  dab of Krazy glue on the unravelling knot of insanity)

Years ago I asked my Neurologist what I could do about my brain taking three separate sides in an argument. All he said was, “It sounds like you’re in tune with your Id, Ego and Super Ego.” That was not at all helpful.

Its nice to know, but how do I relax when my inner child is constantly in search of something new to distract her?

 

 

But everyone remembers the Frito Bandito

Published June 2, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I work with several baby teachers. Most of them are twenty years younger and this is their first full-time teaching job. I also work with a teacher who is about 15 years older than me. He also has a background in the arts, and if things had gone differently, we would be related by marriage. (Not to each other. )

The other day, my bizarro brain became obsessed with Fruit Pie the Magician. (This has happened before.) I asked my colleague if he remembered this character.  He did not. He also did not remember Twinkie the Kid on King Ding Dong.  These were the spokespastries for Hostess.  There was even a brief period when Hostess tried to shake things up by creating a chocolate twinkie, with a Twinkie the Kid of color.  This did not last long.

I said all of the above to my colleague and he looked at me as if I had gone quite mad. He did not remember any of it, leaving me to wonder if perhaps I was in my own special loop of the Mandela effect.  I tested this theory by asking him if he remembered Jot, the dot who had feelings.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how nuts this sounded, so I looked it up. Jot was a dot that interacted with children and changed color and shape out of empathy for children.   He was part of an hour long program that was on a local TV station on Sunday mornings.

In addition to Jot, one could tune in to see Davy and Goliath, a well meaning boy and his oddly judgmental dog.  There was also a guy who would read the Sunday funnies aloud to the viewers.

My colleague remembered the show and the funnies but not Jot. He did not remember any of the spokespastries, but he did remember the marginally racist Frito Bandito.

I, however, do not.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

At

Ath this

 

A

At

 

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.