I Decided EFF It

I’d been pretty good about deleting crazy shit received via email and text.  Hell, I even shut down my Facebook account ’cause I didn’t really want to have a bitchfest on-line and further alienate people.  After all, I’m supposed to be a grown up.  You know, the kind of person who actually does turn the other cheek and takes on thankless tasks like truly cleaning up someone’s estate.

Then I decided “FUCK IT”.  I’m no Buddha, and certainly not Jesus Christ.  In fact, I’m human, and as such I’m pretty tired of being blamed by some spoiled rotten brat who exploited my mother for her own gain because of (insert whiny bitchy obnoxious lack of perspective reason here). Revenge, we’re told, is a dish best served cold.  Moreso, we’re told it does more harm than good.  It’s not god for the soul to engage in it.

However, I feel that sometimes one’s nasty words should be placed out there for everyone to take in.  Especially when these nasty words are delivered by someone who immediately started taking things.  And, when she reads this, she should consider GIVING ME MY GOD DAMNED RING BACK BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT ANYTHING LET ALONE A RING I BOUGHT FOR MY MOTHER WHICH MATCHED A RING MADE FOR HER BY MY FATHER WHO IS NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER.  Just saying.  In a ranting, immature, go take some Adderall kind of way.

So… without further fanfare.  Today’s nasty gram.  Courtesy of the one who allegedly loved my mother best and took care of her the most.  Which explains her dying in a filthy house filled with animal hair, alone most of the time, paying people to take care of her needs, and sleeping in a bad without sheets because her dogs had destroyed them.  OK.  There was fanfare.

I hate you. You took my place to go to when I needed a break from life.  You can sell everything in that house because the materials items were never what I wanted.  You will never know the true meaning of grandma house.  You are a selfish horrible person.

All sent to me because the lawyer I hired for the estate told me I had to lock everyone out to keep the asset safe.  Mainly because it’s the only thing left.

Oh, did I fail to mention that my Mom retired in 2004 with $300,000 in pension/retirement?  Did I mention that she was penniless as of 3+ years ago?  In fact, in 2010, she only had $38K of it left?  Did I mention that said caring person who ALWAYS put her grandmother first “borrowed” money from Grandma’s account to pay for her bills, and SOMETIMES paid Grandma back?  Or that in 2007 she borrowed about $7K, most of which was NEVER repaid and of which, said LOVING GRANDDAUGHTER told her Grandmother she no longer owed her due to the fact that “She took care of her when she was sick and after she was hospitalized.”  Yep, picking up your grandmother, feeding her at your own home, and doing some of her laundry for less than a month amounts to a $7,000 loan forgiveness act.

Perhaps someone doesn’t want anything because she’s already taken it all?  Yet, I, who am bound by LAW, am the horrible, selfish person.

And yes, I get this is childish and inappropriate.  I’m sure I’ll return to being a responsible grown-up soon.

A Lot Has Changed

It’s amazing how much has changed since November 4th.

That’s the day Mom died.  In that amount of time, I’ve come to realize that death really isn’t the kind of thing that brings out the best in people.  If anything, I find that her death has made everything challenging in a new way.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that making a family member executor, especially to a family as dysfunctional as ours (we do have a royal flush, my friends), is really a bad plan.  You’d think that sometime in the past 27 years, I would have geared up for this marathon challenge.  Instead, I went along living my life as though I’d never have to run it.

I am an idiot.

Mind you, there’s really nothing to execute.  She was $33,008 in debt to the IRS, and another $46,000 to credit cards.  My only task is to do my best with what’s left to generate enough of a revenue stream to satisfy the debts. As executor, you protect the deceased and her heirs from financial fraud and exploitation.  That’s a hard one, and a little late if you ask me.  This seriously needed to be done while she was alive. I’d say my other task was to keep the family happy, but that flew out the window as soon as I wasn’t able to do just that.  You can’t execute an estate and keep people happy.  That’s an impossible task.

As always, I don’t feel much has been learned other than I can be hated greatly for denying everyone what they want while being responsible for paying the bills and taking care of business.  After all, when it comes down to it, I’m the dad of the operation.  I don’t count.

Flipped Instruction

and a flippant question.

If homework is such a HUGE issue in education with parents being pretty much against it, then how, exactly, does flipped instruction work?  You see, watching a video and making sense of it is STILL homework.  This just seems… weird.

I guess I find it strange that what we’re teaching is SO LARGE it has to go that far outside the school day.  Why not just slow down, lecture, practice, refine, coach, compare, collaborate, etc.?

Honestly, as a teacher, I have an issue with outsourcing my job to Khan Academy so I can, allegedly, act as a coach.

Spoiling Our Kids & Blaming Them For It

I admit that I don’t ask much of my child.  In part because I don’t run my house as my parents did, nor do I have the same financial issues or job requirements.  In short, I’ve given my child very few responsibilities, and, I’m sure, it shows.

From time to time, he’ll get snotty with me, and when I go off, I mention how I would never have done this as well as all the responsibilities I was expected to fulfill as a child.  I don’t know why I do it because it’s obviously not effective in getting what I want.  Probably because I don’t know what I want at that moment in time. I’m guessing I want him trained like I was; however, I’ve not taken any time, given any attention, or been willing to be consistent in training him.  His “failure” is really MY failure.

I’ve always known that when there are kid troubles that we should look to the adults.  It’s our job to model for them and act as guides.  Thing is, we’re really not that interested in doing so.  We want to TELL them what to do, we expect it done to our satisfaction, and then we’re mad when it doesn’t happen.  That’s just crazy, and it’s the best recipe for having poor relations there is.  After all, look at all the romantic relationships that fail due to communication and expectation issues.  Duh!

What really brought this home for me was a blog post that my cousin, Tiffany Heth, posted to her Facebook wall.  It’s called “Top Ten Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make”.  Now, we all know I’m not Christian, nor is my child a teen (yet).  However, that doesn’t mean I might not find something worthy and valuable in the article.  And indeed I did.

The article points out that spoiling kids isn’t just about access to money, it’s also access to too many opportunities.  I would include in that giving them experiences that aren’t age-appropriate.  We give and do for our children as a matter of fact, but then we’re pissed when they EXPECT these things.  Yet, if we really look at it, we are the ones who created the problem.  Remember, start as you intend to go.

One of the issues of the “modern world” is that kids today have too much.  This has probably always been the case.  But it seems that we never consider that parents these days GIVE too much.  Perhaps we should reflect as to why we do this.  For if we truly want to make changes, shouldn’t we start with ourselves? I would venture to guess that I’m not the only one with self-discipline issues.

Or is this where someone throws out “picking my battles”?

Common Core, 21st Century Skills & Kindergarten

In the last few years there was a shift in education from state standards to, essentially, federal standards.  These are referred to as Common Core State Standards. As soon as they were adopted by states, there was immediate feedback and criticisms about the standards from both parents and teachers.

Thing is, whether you love them or hate them, there are a couple of KEY flaws to the standards themselves.

The first, and more salient one, is kindergarten.  What most people actually don’t know is that kindergarten is NOT a legally required step in education.  Education begins with FIRST grade.

You might be asking, “So what?”  Well, kindergarten is the new first grade.  However, without all of the skills once taught in kindergarten, we’re setting up our educational system for failure.  In fact, I think if we looked at educational statistics in the last 30 years, we could, at the very least, set up a correlation for why we haven’t seen the expected gains.

During the last 30 years kindergarten has moved from being part of a day to a whole day.  Skills like learning to actually write (SERIOUSLY, hold a pencil), coloring to fine-tune motor control, following directions, and learning to solve problems were shoved aside to teach ACADEMICS!  After all, we need our kids ready!

However, we can’t have academics without first building the foundational skills.  This USED to happen in kindergarten.  Now, however, it’s addition and subtraction fact families, sight words, and writing paragraphs.  All this from a grade that’s not required.

Now, don’t take this to mean let’s make kindergarten legally required so we can start, day one, making 5 year olds sit still for 5 hours filling in worksheet after worksheet.  Instead, let’s return kindergarten to the foundational skills students will need in order to be successful over the life of their academic careers.

In short, how do you teach creativity, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication if you don’t start in kindergarten and actually LAY that foundation?

If there is to be an educational revolution, and we seriously want to follow a business model, remember that businesses focus on VERY FEW GOALS.  Part of this process is choosing fewer goals, refining the model, and then delivering an excellent product.  Those businesses that tank often took short-cuts and went off half-cocked.

With that in mind, let’s restore kindergarten to kindergarten and focus on laying the foundation of 21st century skills by teaching students HOW to use tools and then allowing them to demonstrate that ability.  Yes, let’s give those kids scissors. Let’s act like the standards as a suitcase or an outfit.  Look at it and automatically remove 10% of what’s in the suitcase or one piece of jewelry.  Too much is too much.  Finally, let’s push all the of the standards up at least one year.  This means that what we expect from kindergarteners NOW we would expect from 1st graders instead.

You might think your kindergartener will be bored.  That he or she already knows all of this.  However, I think you’d be surprised at how much slowing the pace and allowing confidence will make a difference.  After all, is your kid REALLY bored or are you just in a hurry to prove how smart he/she is?

 

The 5-Year Thing in Teaching

I’ve never seen statistics on this, so I don’t actually know if it’s true.  However, there is this “theory” in teaching that many teachers exit the profession by their fifth year.  I’m sure there’s an amount like “half the teachers quit before they get to year 5″ or some such stuff.

However, this idea popped into my head the other day because it occurred to me that MANY of the district office teachers and coaches are teachers who WERE NOT IN THE CLASSROOM FOR VERY LONG.  In fact, many of the principals we have WERE NOT IN THE CLASSROOM FOR VERY LONG.  All of a sudden I have this different view of they are LEAVING the classroom, not necessarily QUITTING the profession.

I think this is actually a far more chilling statistic if it’s true.  Having people who lack classroom success dictate and determine the fate and future of teachers and students is horrifying at best and probably some kind of malpractice at worse.  There’s something really, really wrong about having a leadership that knows little about the battlefield they’re sending their soldiers into, and criminal about leadership that would NEVER set foot on that battlefield because they hated it.

In real war, we tend to feel confident about our generals because they’ve seen real battle.  Well, this is real.  Why are we promoting the least qualified among our ranks to lead?  Moreso, why aren’t we questioning WHY they left the classroom but not the profession?

Computers & Education

I’m not a Luddite, but I do lean towards that philosophy when talking about “technology” in the classroom.

For those of you who either know me or have read this blog from time to time, you’ll know that I don’t really approve of computers for kids.  While some might think this is about me “protecting” my job as a teacher, and it may be (I hadn’t really thought of it that way until I was typing this), the fact is, I don’t see this “tool” as being appropriate for teaching.

There, I said, it.  A computer is a TOOL.  It’s one of many.  Like all tools, some are more suited for the task than others.  However, I find that the current flow is that computers are the way to deliver interventions to struggling students, to remediate them, AND to excel them.  This one tool does it all — it slices, it dices, it cooks, it cleans, it’s a miracle…. It’s a sham.

NO tool is everything to everyone in every situation.  This includes a computer and it’s software (or its app).  That we, as a society, are so hell-bent on having teachers PROVE they are DESERVING of their pay is insulting, but then to be that teacher and see how many people will roll over and play dead allowing some random computer program to “teach” their students is just mind-boggling.  You WANT accountability, and then pawn off this MOST IMPORTANT EDUCATIONAL GOAL onto a piece of furniture?  That’s just crazy.

And all that opining aside, the fact is the students HATE it.  We have kindergartners, who aren’t even LEGALLY REQUIRED TO ATTEND SCHOOL, forced to interact with computers for 100 minutes a week.  A casual person might say, “Well, that’s only 20 minutes a day.” BUT… School schedules are complex monsters, and school supplies are limited, plus… well, there’s the cost of licenses so only x many kids can access a site at any one time.  So, NO it’s not 20 minutes per day.  It’s generally three 45 minute sessions per week.  That’s just painful for everyone.

My students don’t really look forward to computer days.  They ask if they can sign out and just read.  They will do math or anything else.  They would LOVE it if I could manage to get them outside for regular PE, but I can’t.  I’m relying on brain breaks in class to get us up and moving.  I try to fit one in every 45 minutes, but it’s not always possible.  Yes, technology trumps outside time. Go ahead, ask where my day goes….

  • 1500 contact minutes a week gets divided up mostly as…
  • 125 technology
  • 500 to 600 for English Language Arts
  • 80 for supervising lunch because lunch is during my contact minutes
  • 100 for music, 60 just for standard operating procedures, 300 for math
  • 60 for library/girls’ & boys’ club
  • 60 for assigning/reviewing homework
  • 60 for transitions or breaks
  • 150 for science or social studies
  • leaving about 100 minutes left-over that tend to be eaten, no joke, by lost supplies, interruptions, melt-downs.  Sometimes, though, we get PE

The long and short of this long-winded tirade is that kids really only want technology when they are playing games and it’s fun for them.  Most only like school because it’s social.  Seriously, they come to school to be with their friends.  Therefore, this tool that makes them focus on a screen, tracks their time, and isolates them isn’t effective because… well, they don’t like it.

We would be well-served to remember that most connections are made through our emotions, not our intellect.  Truthfully, what’s in it for us?  This method… not much.