peachyteachy

For realsies

Back to School Messaging August 27, 2014

cell phone

Evidently, I took the summer off from blogging. Oops.  I was too busy doing nothing + professional development.

Back to school, I have been enduring some meetings that lasted for what felt like the entirety of summer break.  At one point, I decided that it would be a super idea to enter my administrator’s number into my cellphone, in case of emergencies.  So I carefully transcribed the digits to the screen, adding a cheerful “testing” message as well.

A few hours later, when I had received no confirmation, I followed up with a request for a return text, verifying that things were in place.

The response, which fell slightly short of said verification: “You are an ugly man stop trying to stalk me loser.” It would seem that things are most certainly not in place.

This administrator has a sense of humor, but not enough to pull that off. I responded.

“Okay so def wrong number!”

The good-natured reply:

“Your d—k was tiny as hell.”

Well, that does make sense, seeing as how I am not a dude. . .

Ah, back to school—where the improbable becomes the commonplace.

The moral of the story: check the number, with spectacles in place.

 

Check It Out August 1, 2014

NEW BLOG ALERT

You can help to build a blog that will explore some of the issues surrounding the standardized test score-based school reform movement.  It will also look into how we can support kids to navigate the educational waters these days.

http://biggerthananumber.wordpress.com/

 

School Year Wrap Up: 2014 Report Card Comments June 23, 2014

Filed under: education,humor,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 6:46 pm
Tags: , ,

Imagine, if you will, that you are a teacher in an urban elementary school.  For the past ten months it has been your duty to systematically improve the outcomes of twenty-some little less-than-nine-year-olds.  Pants have been wet.  Spider monkey howls have been howled. Swaths of duct tape have hovered within centimeters of certain lips. I only alluded once out loud to a possible need to wear Pull-Ups to school due to frequent “I have a true emergency” pleas. If you do not see the miracle in the fact that students and teacher are still standing, you clearly need to watch more episodes of The Simpsons.

And so, the time has come, once again, to fill a space barely larger than that of a triple Tweet, with the critical written message that may be the only communication that a parent reads about their child (I don’t assume that they have read the previous comments).  Also, the dang Cricket phone has long since been disconnected. As I have noted before, the nature of report card comments has been ambushed, like everything else in public education, by the Data Dementors.  We are required to report mostly in numeric code.  What’s left must tread lightly into the realm of the human being child.  You’ll see what I mean. Please note: I use the word “actual” loosely.

 

 

Actual comment:

Skylark has increased her reading level from C to F.  This is still far below the grade level target of M.  Skylark continues to struggle with addition and subtraction within 20, and scored 27% on the most recent math assessment.  Please practice daily with the materials sent home for the summer.  I am hopeful that Skylark will focus on her schoolwork in order to make lots of progress next year!

Fake comment:

Skylark has progressed from level C (Come ON!) to level F (Freaking pay attention and look at the word and not your sparkly press-on nails that get lost on the floor and prevent you from looking at these things called letters!).  Skylark is amused by Kleenex. Skylark won our class award for most consecutive days without turning in homework! Way to go above and beyond, Skylark!

Actual comment:

Bruce Lee has made some progress with math computation, and scored 40 out of 50 points on the end-of-year timed facts quiz. He should be reading at level M at the end of this grade, but struggled to reach K, as he sometimes gives up on tasks, and is tempted to socialize.  I am confident that he will make more positive behavior choices next year. Good luck, Bruce!

Fake comment:

Bruce Lee could be the most successful kid in the class, but he is fully focused on his Thug-In-Training program.  He was the first in the grade to learn to make spit balls!  He believes that his desk is a wheelbarrow, and his seat, a rocking chair. His anger at being asked to complete schoolwork is surpassed only by his commitment to wear all-camo, all day, every day. I was delighted at his progress when he stated that, “I don’t steal markers from you anymore.”

Actual comment:

Tazmania scored 19 out of 50 points on her final math assessment, short of the grade level target of 40.  She also has struggled with understanding what she reads, scoring 35% on her last unit assessment.  Tazmania is frequently distracted and will need to focus on controlling her body as she moves on to the next grade level.  Good luck next year, Taz!

Fake comment:

Tazmania practices Desk Twerking on a daily basis. We are all impressed by her ability to elevate her tush like that, and so often! She finds it difficult to complete assignments, as she is generally at eye level with her desk, which is a treasure trove of all the pencils, rubber bands, and sticky notes missing from the room at any given time.  I am hopeful that her practice at lying pathologically will contribute to lots of improvement in her writing next year! Good luck, Tazmania!

Now, on to the comedy that is summer professional development!

Image:

 

 

 

 

Anti-Vaxxers, Visit My Classroom June 11, 2014

little house

Really, come on down.  It’s Little House on the Prairie up in here. Without the polite kids.

It is important that you understand that there are environments over which you have no control. NONE! The lowlands of Afghanistan, for instance, and my classroom rug. Both are said to reek of a county fair livestock barn.  And don’t get me started on the chicken factor.  Things have definitely hatched here. They incubated behind the microwave that doesn’t exist in my closet.  Soon there will be a zombie chicken invasion. With the attendant lice on board.

Stuff is mutating at an alarming rate.  The reality is that, if you are going to allow your kid to be within a three mile radius of a classroom carpet, you are going to want some vaccination happening.  You really just can’t  plan on controlling this shit.  You might also want to heed the teacher’s request to donate hand sanitizer to the class.  Your kid looks way dirtier when there are twenty-three peers drooling nearby.

The spilled milk factor alone calls for a haz-mat team.  But this is an urban school, so haz-mat consists of a milling group of 8-year-olds, trying to sop up moisture with the least absorbent paper towels known to man: The Brown Paper Towel.  Why do you think that a roll of these is 2.7 miles long? Because they soak up virtually nothing.  Not cow’s milk, not goat’s milk, sure as hell not any cereal stirred up with a spork and combined with the milk or any goat, cow, or ox that you have  your hands on.  I would wager that clinical studies have been conducted (possibly at my own workplace) to determine the Brown Paper Towel’s effectiveness upon the spilled margarita.  You could compose invites for a hipster dinner party on this paper, knot it up with some twine, and head on down to the brewery for some crafty goodness. Stop by the clinic, would  you, and make sure your boosters are up to date?

Or, you could just take your chances, and become a disturbing and disturbed carrier like me! We can donate our bodies to science! It will be cool!

 

Photo:

 

 

I inspire hypochondria April 4, 2014

Filed under: education,humor,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 8:23 pm
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Reasons to send kids to nurse’s office include the following:

Kid stayed home yesterday because he was sick and got his ear pierced and it hurt so he took it out so it hurts.

“My gut hurts real bad where he kicked it in gym.”

He  stole my pencil my stomach hurts real bad.

My grateful perspective is that no one made themselves puke on the floor to get out of work. Search the archives. It happened.

 

If We Had Taken Three Days of Tests in Third Grade March 30, 2014

Filed under: education,parenting,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 1:06 pm

When I was in third grade, I was dwelling on the outskirts of what might be deemed “painfully shy.” I lived in fear of being called to the Principal’s office.  This was ridiculous, because I never stepped out of line at that point of my life.

As children prepare for the ordeal that is state testing, I considered that little girl, who she was, and how she would have handled this level of demand at the age of eight or nine.  I realized that a large chunk of my self-esteem was built upon the fact that I was successful academically.  In short, I was a good reader, writer, and student in general.  As a smart, shy kid, I also experienced some painful times at the hands of the pack.  In many ways, I was fragile.  How many of us are solid at the age of eight?

I am not sure that the little girl that I was at eight would have handled the “higher” standards and the curriculum that teachers must slam young learners with today.  The one area where I had succeeded would have been threatened.  Would I have risen to the occasion, embracing the challenges of abstract, dense, no break for play, programming that is today cloaked by words like “best practice” and “data driven instruction?”  In high school, perhaps.  In elementary school, I fear that it would have broken me.  And I was a “smart kid.” I later proved to be a sort of natural test-taker, a fact that I consider pure luck of the draw in brain wiring.  Had I taken these lengthy, impossibly rigorous tests when I was so young, would I have followed that trajectory, or would I have experienced failure after failure until I was turned off from learning altogether?

It is said that children are resilient, and in many ways this is true.  That principle is being tested (no pun intended) as never before. As we continue to hold our most at-risk populations to the same measure of success as those who enjoy far greater privilege, we claim to be creating a system where graduation rates will increase.  I am not so sure.  I have watched fifth graders who went all year without passing a unit test in math or reading.  These students made growth, became better readers, learned mathematical concepts they had not before.  But it wasn’t enough for them to feel any measure of success.  The gap we claim to wish to close has been made intentionally wider.  As a teacher, I have feared for my career and felt frustration with the students when they could not somehow write something that, up until last  year, was included in the curriculum for two or three grades later.

I have students who have lived their lives in refugee camps, and students who live in dangerous conditions with parents who have their own negative history in education.  Our school is in a neighborhood where bad headlines are made regularly, where it isn’t safe to walk at night. We need to examine what we are creating for these huge numbers of at-risk kids.  Do we want them to feel like they belong out there, or in here?  Or worse, nowhere?

I didn’t grow up with money, but my parents were educated, and I was safe.  Even children of relatively stable situations are feeling levels of stress that we have no business inflicting on our  younger citizens.  My hat is off to the parents who have chosen to act on their convictions that something needs to change.  I encourage any adult to reflect and recall the experience of being a child in school–and then imagine adding in this factor that colors every day of instruction.  A useful exercise, if nothing else.

 

Something New Every Day: Elephant February 15, 2014

Filed under: education,humor,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 8:00 am
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I am pretty sure that the school nurse does not have this one in her records.

During the course of a classroom discussion about a field trip to the zoo, one of my students casually informed me that he cannot go near  the elephants.   One would suppose that he was afraid of elephants, right? They are extra large.

Nope.

“I’m allergic to elephants.”

In a suburban school, a teacher might suspect that the boy was pulling her leg or being a smart aleck.

However, if you work in a school that is a veritable casting call for the “Small World” ride at Disneylandworld, you tend to not bat an eye at such a statement.  I have many students who hail from environs that could support elephant interaction as an everyday occurrence, along with goat roasting and violent insurgencies.

Peachy: “Okay, no problem.”

AND, this is my disclaimer, that of course, elephant allergy is real and is no laughing matter.  And just to take it to the universal level, let it be stated that everything allergy is real and is no laughing matter.

image: http://www.acuteaday.com

 

Reporting the Unreportable: Report Card Comments January 22, 2014

Like laundry or dishes, if you are a teacher, report cards will have to be done.  Over and over and over.  These days, however, we don’t really have a lot that we are permitted to say in our comments.  What used to be the precious little narrative in which one could convey to a parent that, a) I get your kid and I appreciate them, or, b) I have your kid’s number and yes, he actually does have homework four days a week, despite the story he may be telling you—that has been usurped by the far wiser upper dwellers who know that what parents really want to know is their child’s numerical score on SOMETHING.  They also suggest the wording to explain what the hell those numbers are that we are so lovingly sending to our parents.  Oh, and, careful not to say anything personal (read: not quantitative).  Referring to a student’s personal qualities is considered unprofessional, apparently.  I do it anyway; of all the things they are looking to use as an excuse to can teachers, I’ll gladly go down in flames on the “kind and thoughtful” comment.

Thank you for taking up the one little rectangle of text where I felt that my perspective mattered.

And so, dear readers who have graciously read my predictably periodic feature about actual report card comments that we might write, along with their counterparts, the comments that tell the facts in a slightly harsher, less diplomatic light, the gap is widening.

Let’s get to it.

Actual comment:

Sherfleece scored 22 on the IRFTY (I Read Faster Than You) assessment.  A student performing on grade level should score at least 44.  In math, we are studying strategies for understanding place value and addition and subtraction to 1,000.  Because she is reading so far below grade level, she  does not understand the language on our new, rigorous math tests.  She can complete 6 more problems in January than she could in September.  By the end of the year, she should be able to complete at least 44.

Unwritten comment:

Sherfleece likes things that are pink.  She can spell “pink” on a good day. She requires a team of classmates to tie her three foot long pink shoelaces four times a day.  Although she cannot actually read, she prefers to take out her library book during math, as the language in our math instruction for six-year-olds was written by a dude at Oxford University who does have a six-year-old pet turtle.  Please send pencils.  Please do not send tinted lip gloss, pretty stickers, or craft supplies for making bracelets.  Thank you for sharing with me that seven people in your immediate family have an ADHD diagnosis, but we are not sure about Sherfleece yet. My diagnosis: I am a psychic.  She’s got it.

Actual comment:

Plantain is beginning to identify letter sounds.  He sometimes speaks to me in English to use the bathroom.  He scored at a Level Subzero on his IRFTY (I Read Faster Than You) assessment, while grade level students should score 44.  He scored zero on his math computation assessment. Plantain should be practicing his letter names and sounds at home, and memorizing math facts daily.

Unwritten comment:

Plantain is making great progress, considering the fact that he has lived his entire life in a refugee camp until three months ago.  His scores on any test should be the least of your concerns.  He is smiling at school and he doesn’t fall asleep after spending the day surrounded by people speaking another language.  Plantain is doing just fine.

Actual comment:

GIJoe has the potential to be a top student. He is reading at grade level, although he has difficulty answering questions about what he reads.  He scored 44 on the IRFTY (I Read Faster Than You) assessment.  He also scored 44 on his math computation assessment, but resists showing his work. He will need to make better effort  and positive behavior choices in order to continue to progress.  

Unwritten comment:

GIJoe acts as if I asked him to go to the scary woods with a bucket to fetch water whenever I ask him about his reading. You’d think he’d be down for the challenge, considering he wears camo head to toe a couple of days a week. He reads like a robot, and when asked a question such as “In what other machines might you find computers used today? Find the answer on p. 5,” his answer reads, “In America and Canada.”  Ask him to go to page five, pencils spontaneously break, he can’t hold his head up, page five ceases to exist.  If it ain’t easy, he ain’t doing it! Joe steals my markers and chalk and flushes them down the toilet.  Teaching GIJoe = Dental Surgery. Six hours a day.

 

Taking One For the Team December 17, 2013

Filed under: humor,life,school,teaching — peachyteachy @ 7:18 pm
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Yes, well, sometimes, state departments of education decide to visit  low-performing  schools the week before Christmas break.  For three days.  A team swoops in and observes classrooms with the expectation that the teachers and students will be demonstrating best practice and best  behavior and best planning and best data whoring.

On a full moon.

Which is a naive myth to all of you superior people who have never been responsible for a pack of twenty-to-thirty younglings for six to seven hours a day.  Children teach one the ways of the moon, my friend.  I’m sorry for calling you superior. There’s too much superiority hovering around these days; I’m starting to see it where it doesn’t dwell.

Don’t imagine that any of these days before Christmas will include any moment of special holiday preparation, or story or, heaven forbid, crafts!  No.  The children will complete unit assessments in both reading and writing. Please bring me to litigation if I am off the mark when I say that I cherish the sweet treasures brought home from school  by my babies —and that I do not give a rat’s ass about the score they received on some unit test.

Never mind all of that.  Take a walk into my classroom today,  after lunch (translation: the witching hour).  Sitting comfortably in my desk chair (which is probably infested with bedbugs) is a representative of a state department of education.  Unfolding before him is a veritable three ring circus of children who have apparently been given cappuccino for lunch, if you go by the calling out, falling out of chairs, and approaching the teacher to complain of various medical maladies. It is a perfect storm of we-took-a-test-it’s-almost-Christmas-break-the-moon-is-full-phonics-is-only-good-if-you-yell-it.

The problem is that, in these situations, you can’t crack the whip the way you would normally. You are trying to use all the positive strategies to turn the craziness around, when in fact they need their fearless leader to yell the hell out of it for a minute. Instead, it was as if Ozzy Osbourne had inhabited my class.   You can bet that when that state dude left, it was not pretty.

My only comfort is the thought that I made the rest of my teammates look really good in comparison. As for me, this would be an optimum time for the Megamillions to smile on down on Peachyteachy.  Today, all I want to do is stay home and bake.

image: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/do-full-moons-make-people-crazy-12157.jpg

 

Insecure Writers, Rest Easy November 18, 2013

Filed under: education,humor,school,teaching,writing — peachyteachy @ 9:37 pm
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I know how many of you choose November to flex your writing muscles—what with the various “No’s” and “WriMos” and mustachios in the air.

I am here to bring you good tidings.  You need no longer steal furtive glances over your shoulder at the overwhelming fear that you are about to be overtaken in the November writing game by one of my students.

The only competition that these darlings are going to win is the race to use the fewest capital letters.  At the beginning of sentences, I mean.  There are veritable craploads of capitals being tossed about, just for the joy of capitalization itself.

foR examPLe, me and my fiEnd went To the mAll itwas so so so so fUn.

I know! For a second there, I thought I was reading the Unabomber manifesto, too! I’m not sure which celebration of November manifesto-writing that fellow engaged in, but he was definitely on the shaving wagon.

My son tried to read one of my kids papers and it sounded like nothing so much as Middle English.  I call this kid out all the time (my student, not my son) because he is out of control and I have to, even though he can’t help it much of the time.  Who knew he was writing the latter day Canterbury Tales?  The translation of his truly illegible writing was this: “Today my teacher is my best friend. We work together a long time. We read together. She helps me spell words.” (Virtually every word is misspelled. So touching.)

So, friends, carry on.  All is well.  Happy November.  I remain, proudly,

 

 
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