Dear Educational Resource Vendor, Now Is Not The Time To…

…flood my school email inbox with offers to try a new educational technology that aligns to curriculum for standardized tests.

Not all of my students have the resources to access the technology if I was even in a position to purchase and use it.

Most all of my time now is devoted to just providing what I can educationally to the students I have within the framework of existing technology.

There is no telling what financial burdens are mounting on the shoulders of local school systems and individual schools just to try and make learning accessible while trying to meet the many needs of our students. Remember, we have a General Assembly controlled by people who are holding the budget hostage.

If you have existing customers and clients using your tools and technology, please focus on helping them make the most of what they have for their own students.

Now is not the tell to sell. Now is the time to show support that we as teachers who already use your products will then rave about to others when this pandemic is over and we realize that we as a system, state, and nation may have to re-prioritize how we approach certain aspects of schooling.

In the future, we might have the finances to actually purchase something that we know we will use for a long time and can benefit each student maximally. And teachers will talk about how great a product or customer support really was.

But if you are a streaming service of educational videos, online tutorials, electronic versions of books, or any other supplementary product that students can go to without to much guidance that can be used for free while this epidemic is still occurring, then contact the technology officer at the central office.

That would help tremendously because they would know best how it might fit individual schools.

I need my email inbox for my students, parents, and administrators.

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What This Teacher Misses Most? The Organized Chaos Of School

I am a teacher.

By the third year of teaching, my daily routine outside of school was marked by a schedule that centered around teaching. Bells go off in my head during the summers. No matter what day it is, I naturally awake at the same time.

When there is complete silence, I sometimes have to turn on some sort of background noise.

Mentally, I can prepare for summer breaks, but much of what I do in the summer still revolves around my school because in truth a school never closes.

Two weeks into this epidemic that now includes a “stay at home” order and I am trying to explain to a person who does not teach what I am missing most. I tell him that it is the “organized chaos.” That’s hard to explain to someone who does not teach in a school, and until I had to put what I meant into words, I didn’t really know what it totally encompassed intellectually.

But I sure feel it.

  • It’s the bustling hallways between class periods when students have that brief period of socializing with others at school.
  • It’s the collaborative group work that occurs when students are engaged in an assignment.
  • It’s the crowd at a sporting event supporting students representing the school.
  • It’s the cafeteria during lunchtime.
  • It’s the ten different conversations in a classroom taking place right before the bell rings to begin class.
  • It’s the open area outside the building after school where friends meet.
  • It’s the extracurricular activity that brings people with similar interests together.
  • It’s that frenetic pace that teachers get used to over the years and find comfort because energy is being used to maximize what time we actually do have.

And it’s so much more than that.

Yesterday, I went to my school to collect some of the items and books that I thought I need now that schools have been shut down until at least May and an order to stay at home was to start in the evening. I conducted an online class from my desk with students who would normally sit in the very desks in that same room. When the session concluded and the screen went blank, there was that feeling of complete silence that many would find relaxing.

I didn’t.

I miss the bemused faces of students who are amazed that I find what I teach incredibly interesting. I miss the eye rolls from those who think my jokes are corny. I miss the honest feedback from students and colleagues about what we are doing about teaching and learning.

I am a teacher.

And when that school opens back up after this epidemic, I might be the first one in his classroom.

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HB17, Deep State, Common Core, Class Wallet, and iPads – The State Board of Education Should Not Listen To Mark Johnson’s Recommendation For Paying iStation

Today at 11:00, a meeting will convene with the State Board of Education to discuss a variety of issues surrounding the closure of public schools in the state and how to offer instruction to students to complete the school year.

SBOE meeting

Hidden in that agenda is a request from State Superintendent Mark Johnson to pay iStation $1.2 million dollars to prolong the use of an unpopular reading assessment tool for elementary school students based on a questionable procurement process.

Remember that HB17 launched a lawsuit that took money away from the state coffers and ultimately hindered the State Board of Education’s role in the budget to give over to an educational neophyte, unproven leader, and a political puppet.

Remember that that same political puppet used his office to run a failed campaign for higher office based on claims that he would rid the state of Common Core.

Remember that that same unproven leader  procured contracts with vendors based on unilateral decisions that were unpopular with teachers and local administrators and were ethically questionable.

Remember that that same educational neophyte said he was in Raleigh to root out and fight against the “deep state.”

Remember that that same individual bought a bunch of iPads because… well, we really do not know why.

The State Board of Education should not spend any more money on Mark Johnson’s recommendations if it is within its power.

 

 

 

 

 

Spend $1.2 Million On The Program We Didn’t Like Or Use The One We Do Like For Free? More About iStation

Dr. Chelsea Bartel has been following the controversy concerning Mark Johnson’s unilateral decision to purchase iStation and exposing its lack of transparency longer than most anyone. She posted this tweet today.

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iStation wants $1.2 million for us to keep using their platform during the prolonged school closures. Amplify is offering theirs for free.

Justin Parmenter just released a great post about the agenda for tomorrow’s State Board of Education meeting in which will consider Johnson’s request to pay iStation. Take a look at it.

Dr. Bartel is right. No more red capes.

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Except in fiction or on Hulu.

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Four Years Ago Today This Blog Began

1461 days.

1733 posts.

700,000+ hits.

And not stopping now.

If I could ask for one thing that you can do, it is to share with others the advocacy for public schools that I hope this blog helps to do.

And if you could invite others to read and engage with what this blog produces, then I would consider that beyond what could be asked for.

Thanks to all who encourage. Thanks to all who question.

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Shakespeare & Social Distancing

King Lear is the most referred to play of Shakespeare’s on the third question of the AP English Literature and Composition exam. Not Hamlet. Not Macbeth. Not Othello.

It’s complex and one of his greatest works.

And he wrote it while quarantined from the plague. Shakespeare knew something about social distancing.

Our own modern “Masters of Revels” have shut down the “playhouses” and order us to stay away from crowds, but that does not mean that we can’t have Shakespeare performed.

The sonnets of Shakespeare alone would mark him as one of our greatest literary icons. As a leading form of poetry of the Renaissance period, Shakespeare even created his own rhyme scheme: ABABCDCDEFEFGG. Reading them aloud was a form of entertainment in olden days (and still is), but what Patrick Stewart has started doing on his Facebook page is helping bridge the chasms of social distancing.

Every day he is posting a recording of his reading a Shakespearean sonnet. 

 

I don’t feel as isolated after listening.

Shakespeare spans time and space.

And that accent.

Dear First Year Teacher, You Are No Longer A New Educator

letter writingFor me, it’s Year 22. Three schools. Two states. Between two to three thousand students who have come through my classrooms. Tens of thousands of essays graded. Multiple curricula adoptions, evaluation tools, administrative changes, over twenty proms, and more sporting events than I can count.

Yet, never have I had to teach remotely in this kind of situation where we all students and teachers were sent home to wait out a viral epidemic. In this case, it seems that you and I are both in a new situation at the same time. But you are more equipped to handle this than I am right now. Instead of my mentoring a new teacher, I find myself looking to the new teachers like you for guidance on how to trudge this new way of helping students.

I graduated from graduate school with my teaching certificate LAST CENTURY – almost before many a novice teacher was even born. The technology that I had mastered compares to nothing that we have now. I have a daughter about to graduate from high school, and I did not start having children until my 30’s.

The changes that you have had to undergo to adapt to virtual instruction are the same as mine at least in the eyes of the public, but you have a more keen sense of how today’s students amass knowledge, communicate with their peers, and use technology. In that regard, you are more of a veteran than I am.

Many things become abundantly clear the older that I become. One is that being around teenagers helps keep my heart young. Second is that I was a lot “smarter” years ago than I am now. Third is that no matter my age, I am still capable of learning if my ego does not get in the way. And teaching public school for twenty plus years and raising a couple of kids will erode a fragile ego and can make anyone more teachable.

Quantity is really a bad indication of quality in many circumstances. What I have seen from some of you new teachers this year and these past couple of weeks takes away a lot of doubt about the quality of teaching in schools after I retire.

But it makes me want to do a few things after this whole epidemic is over with and we can go back to our actual classrooms.

I want to fight more for graduate degree pay, retirement health benefits , and due-process rights for new teachers more than ever.

What you have been through this year and what you have successfully responded to cannot be measured by any evaluation tool.

I hope that you get enough of the respect you deserve for you to stay in the profession.

 

Saving The World By Staying “Half A World Away” – Some Hope From R.E.M.

Self-quarantine. Stay at home. Social distancing. Shelter in place. Isolation.

Keeping yourself “half a world away.”

One of the starker realities of this COVID-19 epidemic is that my neighbors and my family in other states are all literally “half a world” away. That possible human exchange and interaction that fulfills the need of belonging can’t be satisfied unless we take an uncalculated risk.

Our president seems more worried about saving the Dow Jones Industrial average rather than lives. A Lt. Gov. of a state that shall be named – Texas – says the patriotic action to take is for older people to just die to keep the world as it is unchanged for the younger generation.

They are “half a world away.”

The richest, most advanced country in the industrialized world cannot produce enough resources to handle this epidemic because the battle over saving lives has taken a back seat to saving financial bottom lines.

Our priorities are “half a world away.”

Almost 30 years ago, R.E.M. released Out of Time. I was a junior in college here in North Carolina transplanted from right outside of Athens, GA. Listening to R.E.M. was a way to keep from being “half a world away” from home, not that I was overwhelmingly homesick, but I wanted to stay connected and always have that possibility of freely traveling home. Now I am confined in my house that literally is two miles from that very dorm room where I first listened to the song “Half a World Away.”

Probably like many other people, I thought of the song describing a couple breaking up due to distance and having grown apart. Now as I listen to it, a whole new meaning takes shape. Great art has a way of molding its meaning around reality, even when that reality changes over 30 years of life experiences.

Instead of focusing on the “saddest dusk I’ve ever seen,” I am now drawn to the “miracle” and possibility of what can transpire from this prolonged event: reprioritizing our country’s needs, learning to help others more, expanded healthcare coverage, a new president, and a congress that tries to empathize with people.

“My hands” will get more “tired.” I may have “too much to drink.” I will find myself in a “lonely deep sit hollow” feeling like I may have to “go it alone.”

But…I can “hold it along and hold, hold.”

Being “half a world away” right now is painful, uncomfortable, irritating. But if it lets me keep those in this world that I never wanted to be away from in the first place, then I will “haul it along.”

And listen to good music, both through the speakers and through the open windows, especially at “dusk.” That’s when the blackbird sings its evening song.

It’s beautiful.

half world away

“Half A World Away”

This could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high-alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away here
And I had sworn to go it alone, hold it along
And haul it along and hold it
Go it alone ‘n hold it along
Hold

Oh, this lonely deeps and holy way
Half a world, half a world away
My shoes are gone, my life spent
I’ve had too much to drink
I didn’t think, I didn’t think of you
I guess that’s all I needed
To go it alone and hold it along
And haul it along and hold it
Blackbirds, backwards, forwards and fall
Hold

Oh, this lonely world is wasted
Pathetic eyes, high-alive
Blind eye that turns to see
The storm it came up strong
It shook the trees and blew away our fear
I couldn’t leave it here
To go it alone, hold it along
Haul it along and hold it
Go it alone hold it along
Hold

Go it alone and hold it along
Haul it along ‘n hold it
Blackbirds, backwards, forwards and fall
Hold

Oh, this could be the saddest dusk I’ve ever seen
Turn to a miracle, high-alive
My mind is racing, as it always will
My hands tired, my heart aches
I’m half a world away to go

This Has Aged Well – Framing The Words Of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest Within The COVID-19 Outbreak

Remember the HB2 debacle? The one that gave us the “Bathroom Bill” and the lost business in North Carolina and a stain on our reputation as a state?

All for a non-existent problem. But Lt. Gov. Dan Forest championed that bill and its intent as much as anyone. Remember this?

“If our action in keeping men out of women’s bathrooms and showers protected the life of just one child or one woman from being molested or assaulted, then it was worth it. North Carolina will never put a price tag on the value of our children. They are precious and priceless.”

No price can be set on a child’s life, especially in a situation that never occurred. But what about a child’s life or the life of a child’s family member in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic? Even when we could expand Medicaid in this state with almost total federal funding that we as taxpayers already have financed?

Nope. Not on Dan Forest’s watch. In that case, each life has a price.

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But if you like the way that our President has handled the COVID-19 epidemic, then go ahead and support Dan Forest.

forestmedicaid2This teacher supports keeping people alive and not sacrificing them to profit and the stock market.

 

One The Best Virtual “Lessons” For All Students & Families: Complete The Census

It helps to follow people on social media who can always help keep important issues “up front and out loud.”

That’s one reason I follow Kris Nordstrom’s Twitter feed.

Today he reminded me of the need to get people to fill out the census survey. North Carolina is not doing so well in its completion percentage.

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In fact, if you follow that ncdemography.org link, you get this information.

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And participating in the census is both educational and helps funding for public education and other social services that directly affect our public school students. From the actual US government census website:

Census5

Please, take time to fill it out and encourage all students to ask their families to fill it out as well.