Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Governor Andrew Cuomo-- help teachers without taking away tenure

   It’s enough to stress out the average public school teacher. I say average, because teachers in America teach in different circumstances. You have teachers at so-called Charter Schools with their own education theme and requirements, which may be quite different from public schools; you have teachers at magnet schools, under the purview of the local school system yet also allowed to be creative and innovative where needed; and there are the home schooled children, who, depending on the state, can be anyone from a parent to a highly certified education professional. Then there are the beleaguered public school teachers, the ones who teach most of the children in the U.S., the ones with the least say about their teaching environment and materials, being threatened yet again by another government official.

   In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to, essentially, take away teacher tenure and make it harder and harder to stay a public school teacher (see ). My friend Bud, who teaches in New York State, points out that though a Democrat, Governor Cuomo is incredibly unpopular with the teachers’ union. He believes that by making it more and more difficult to be a teacher that young people who would make good teachers are going to flock to the professional. 
   In point of fact, he will be helping to chase them away, and get present teachers to quit. You “don’t” help students by taking away all their teachers’ rights. A better way to help teachers help students is to ask “what teachers need,” instead of
the “this is what you are stuck with, so deal with it” philosophy of education.
    Making test scores 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will cause teachers to teach “to the test” more, making school less interesting and motivating for students. Especially in the elementary grades, we want to encourage students to want to come to school, and help develop their interests in science, reading and math. Will that happen if teachers have no time to be creative? And can a teacher magically improve her “test score” if her heterogeneous group of students is just a group poor at test taking or below average overall?
    What about some accountability on the part of students and parents? Bud tells me he used to give his students work to take home, so the parents could work with them and help them improve. He stopped doing that because the parents never looked at the folder. Parents should, at least on weekends, have some responsibility for providing some enrichment for their kids, perhaps even working with their child on an assignment and reading a story together. Teachers can’t do it all; they need the support of parents and (sometimes lazy) students.

    But Governor Cuomo, like so many who don’t teach or even consider what teachers need besides constant orders, isn’t considering the needs of teachers. And “teaching to the test” is not motivating. For many students, it’s a plain bore.
    Teachers need better professional development and evaluation by people who “actually teach,” such as experienced Master teachers. They need parental support. They need more disciplined students. They do NOT need to have tenure taken away from them and to constantly teach to the test.
    It is no wonder parents take their kids to Charter schools. There teachers are allowed to be innovative, while at the same time, parents are expected to be more involved. If we ran public schools more like that, maybe all students would do better overall.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Where's the Mailman when you need him/her?

    As our snowstorm approached in Virginia I thought, well, instead of rushing to the post office before the big snow hits, I will just put my several, stamped letters in our white mailbox at the road, red flag up. I was certain the mailman (or in my case, mail woman), would drive by pick up my outgoing mail. She comes by in a mini van of sorts with a red and blue stripe running along it.
So, at 10:30, a. m., I put all my mail into my mailbox conveniently bordering the street for the mailman to pick up, as the snow started to come down.
    I waited for the mailman to come by at 12 o'clock, at one o'clock, two o'clock, etc. It snowed, and snowed, and kept going, till we had about six inches of snow. White stuff we had, mailmen we did not. It snowed till 7 o'clock! What happened to the "neither rain, nor hail, nor snow, nor sleet will stay the mailman from his appointed rounds," and we're talking about someone in a vehicle, not someone putting his shoulder into the wind! What happened? What if I'd needed to reach a creditor by the next day? They  didn't show, the wimps!!
    Well, that stinks. So much for customer service. The mail person finally "did" arrive when if was convenient for her -- the next day, AFTER it snowed! You got some 'splaining to do, Madam post office.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Winter, the Great Backyard Bird Count

     It's a funny thing about the winter. You'd think that in the middle of it, when the wind is whipping and there might be snow on the ground, that the birds would stay away. But they do some migrating and a number of them "come around" the middle of February, during Audubon's "Great Backyard Bird Count". I saw cardinals at my feeder as well as at the local park on the river today, also mallards, Canada geese, and what looked like a fall warbler or juvenile grackle.
     In Virginia we have not had the snow of  Boston :( . We are actually in the drought, but, either way, the birds still come through. They can always go to the river to drink. And what's with the flock of herring sea gulls I saw the other day at our shopping center? Looking for a handout in the cold? At least the sun was out when I did some counting.