Friday, June 30, 2006

An embarrassing problem for the Bush Administration

In this piece of fluff about Jenna Bush leaving teaching to go to South America, Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts gush all themselves describing the new and mature Jenna Bush, and to my total disgust referring to her as "America's most famous public school teacher".

Puuuleaz! She taught in a charter school that had absolutely no requirements for teachers and if you think the local administrator's or coach's wife gets special treatment can you imagine what the president's daughter got?

Apparently her job wasn't too taxing. According to the article:

. . .Jenna and a fellow instructor oversaw a class of third-graders being taught in both English and Spanish.

In other words, there was an experienced teacher doing the REAL work while Jenna played at being "teacher".

Of course, one only need search the internet a bit to find the REAL reason for Jenna's departure from the DC public school scene, her school has been rated in need of improvement for the past school year. Since her school was not required to provide any specifics about its test scores and state standards, you'll have to scroll WAAAAAY down to find out the federal govt. is on its case.

Of course, the mainstream media is totally ignoring this story. It would probably be too much of an embarrassment for the Feds.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another gas station, another beautiful woman

Last week I wrote about a beautiful young lady who convinced herself I was a Jaguar owner and who was deeply disappointed to discover I drove a 1985 Toyota Tercel. Writing about her reminded me of another beautiful woman I encountered in a gas station, and since there's not much education news for me to write about I'll share this story.

In the late 80s/early 90s I was attending a branch of the University of South Florida, at Ft. Myers, Florida. It was a junior/senior college that shared space with Edison Junior College (although I believe that name has changed). The branch of USF only offered two degree programs at the time, business or education. The education program was outstanding, so much so that I'm having a difficult time believing so much of the press being written about colleges of education and what a poor job they are doing. Sadly, this branch of USF does not seem to exist anymore or was absorbed when Edison junior College became Edison College.

Besides classes we also had to do 3 levels of student teaching. Only it was NEVER called student teaching, it was ALWAYS referred to as internships. Level I was for the first semester you were officially in the program and it required you to spend 6 hours a week at an elementary school to make sure you knew exactly what you were getting into. Level II internship was for the semester you graduated and it required 12 hours a week teaching under the supervision of an experienced teacher. We were required to teach whole class, small group and individual lessons. Level III was for your final semester but it was more than what most people get in a typical program. For starters, we were required to begin work when our supervising teachers did. For those taking it in the fall semester that meant beginning the week before school started, an incredible opportunity for a future teacher to see. I took it in the Spring semester, so I was required to report on January 2nd, even though the university's semester didn't start till two weeks later. We were also required to spend two months running the class completely, while most student teachers are lucky to get 3 weeks of doing so.

In the fall of 1989 I was a Level II intern at an elementary school in Punta Gorda, Fl, about a 30 minute drive from the university. One afternoon, on my way to class, I happened to stop at a gas station for some snackage to hold me over to dinner. We were required to wear ties and a nametag that declared us as USF interns, so I was dressed nicely. Actually, we had been told we were expected to be the best dressed people in the building.

While waiting in line to pay, a gorgeous young lady in Daisy Dukes (an old pair of jeans cut EXTREMELY short) came in, squinted at my nametag and asked, "Intern? That's like a doctor, isn't it?" Now let me just say that I'm a very ordinary looking guy, most gorgeous women don't pay the slightest bit of attention to me, so when this beautiful young lady asked me if an intern was like a doctor I did the honorable thing.

I stood up straight, straightened my tie, sucked in my stomach as far as it would go, and told her the God's honest truth. Yes, an intern IS like a doctor.

And NO, I didn't have to blow it by getting into a 1985 Toyota Tercel to drive off. This was my pre-Tercel days. I drove a 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury. It had a 318 cubic inch V8 and could go from zero to thirty in a few seconds and still get 24 mpg on the highway.

Hopefully, she didn't see me drive off in it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Are things really THAT bad?

That this sign would really be necessary?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

She didn't want me once she found out I was a teacher

Over at Learn Me Good Mister Teacher is not missing the dress code at his school, which requires ties for teachers. Here in Texas the temperature can often hit the 90s even before the month of May, and since he and I agree a tie with a short sleeve shirt looks too Dilbert-ish, it can make for a pretty hot day, especially if your school has a computer controlled air conditioning system that "averages" 74 degrees throughout the school. All the talk of ties reminded me of an incident that occured awhile back and a young lady I met at a local gas station.

I was only about a month into my first year at the district I currently teach in and since I was the only male teacher I hadn't quite caught on to the fact that males were not required to wear ties. At the time I had a nice collection of ties with matching suspenders. I also had a 1985 Toyota Tercel hatchback (this will be important later).

One morning on the way to school, wearing my tie and matching suspenders, I stopped at a local gas station to gas up. As I waited in line to pay an elderly gentleman, wearing a Mr. T starter kit of necklaces and the biggest gold and diamond ring I've eer seen, drove up in a jaguar, parked up front and came in to use the restroom. 30 seconds later a quite attractive lady, let's call her Daisy, comes in with her head on a swivel. After surveying the crowd (did I mention this gas station is also a truck stop?) she settles on me, saunters over and coos, "That just HAS to be your Jaguar out front". I laughed and explained to her that if it was I would sell it and pay off my house.

Daisy clearly didnt' believe. At least that is until she saw me go out and get in my 1985 Toyota Tercel (windows down b/c the A/C was broken). I do not possess the vocabulary to adequately describe the look of disgust that came upon her face.

HOWEVER, it did add to my basic fact of life's list, which now currently stands at 3.

BASIC FACT #1 - Clowns don't like it when you're funnier than they are.

BASIC FACT #2 - you can't look cool driving around in a 1985 Toyota Tercel (see story above)

BASIC FACT #3 - you can't tell people what they don't want to hear

So thank you Mister Teacher, for reminding me of one of my favorite stories. Next time I'll tell the story of a gorgeous young lady in cutoffs I met at another gas station.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The alphabet edition of the carnival

Week 72 of the carnival of education is up and running over at Why Homeschool. Be sure to check out the unique way Henry chose to organize this week's carnival.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Things Go Better with Mike

Via Joanne Jacobs I came across a website called The Advertising Slogan Generator. Of course, Joanne Jacobs used it to take a jab at public schools but I managed to have some fun with it.

Slogans it returned for my name include: The Best Mike a Man Can Get, Things Go Better with Mike, Snap! Crackle! Mike!, Go On, Get Your Mike Out, Come See the Softer Side of Mike (no man wants to have his named mentioned in the same sentence as soft so I'll pass on that one), Only Mike Has The Answer (when will the rest of the world wake up and realize this!) and my favorite, Uh-oh, Better Get Mike.

Some of the bizarre ones included, You'll Never Put A Better Bit Of Mike On Your Knife, Oh Hungry? Oh Mike, Life's Pretty Straight Without Mike (depends on how you interpret the word "straight"), Don't be an Amber Mike, and the oddest of all, There's no Wrong Way to Eat a Mike (insert your dirty comment here).

In short, this website is a complete and addictive waste of time. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A cool website for teachers

In a recent email from Susan O'Hanian there was a link to a story about a teacher dismissed for refusing to follow the step by step programmed curriculum mandated by his school. Instead the teacher had brought in exciting and stimulating lessons from the web, including one from a really neat website.

The website is called Instructables. It is a free site that contains many lessons and quick projects for teachers. Be sure to check out the Howtoons and learn how to make such cool things as tin can stilts and a vacuum cleaner cannon.

Hmm, I wonder if Lowe's is still open? I'm going to need some 3/4" PVC pipe for the cannon. I'm also going to try the Pop-Up 3D Words.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

FairTest examines recent studies on NCLB

Over at FairTest they've come up with a new newsletter called FairTest E-Examiner.

A recent issue of the E-Examiner included brief reviews of some recent studies of NCLB. One study from The United Church of Christ's (UCC) Public Education Task Force:
criticizes the law for relying on testing and punishment without acknowledging that many schools still lack the resources they need to succeed.

The report emphasizes that NCLB ignores many realities that affect schools and students: segregation; race; poverty; school finance; civil rights; rural isolation; a child's language, culture and identity; good teaching; and respect for educators. Of course, this is nothing new, teachers have known it all along, but now someone else who studied the problem for 4 years has reached the same conclusion.

Another report, this time from a special issue on NCLB from the journal Equity and Excellence in Education reaches the conclusion:
the expense of enabling all students to reach one hundred percent proficiency will approach infinity, while the consequences of the effort will ultimately damage the quality of education as schools over-emphasize raising test scores.

In other words, people have concluded that academically and financially the goals of NCLB are impossible to reach.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Think Twice Review Project

The education "reform" crowd is notorious for dumping dubious research about education onto the masses by duping the media into printing their findings as gospel. Often these reports are "leaked" to the press as working papers, with the statements of "Gosh, we never intended for anyone to see this version" reverberating throughout the press. A brief amount of reading the fine lines will tell you most of these "studies" come from the Hoover Institute, the Fordham Foundation or the Korat Task Force. Further investigation into these think tanks reveal no education experience or background of any of their researchers.

The Great Lakes Center for Education Reseach and Practice has decided to start monitoring
think tank research on public education issues and policies, ensuring that published work meets the quality and standards of university scholarship.

Entitled the Think Twice Review Project, it also provides links to the homepages of some of the more popular think tank homepages.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A different kind of interview hell

Last year I described myself as being in interview hell because I was constantly having to suppress my desire to jump over the table and slap some sense into some of the applicants over their poor grammar, dress and answers. This year we are having the exact problem. We have interviewed 5 people so far for 4 positions. Two of them have absolutely blown us away and the other 3 were also very good. We have 2 others coming in who are also supposed to be experienced, outstanding teachers. The problem for us is the 2 outstanding ones, and the two to come, all want the only 4th grade position available. One has even stated she wasn't interested in anything else but the 4th grade job. Usually people will only take a 4th grade job to get their foot in the door, now we make have to ask people to take something else so that they can eventually get a 4th grade job.

The 70 edition of the Carnival of Education is up and running over at the EdWonks. It seems this week I've been busier than ever and haven't had a chance to blog or read the carnival but it's on my to do list.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Probably fake but funny as heck

Watch this video and be sure to check out the action in the background. It's probably fake but it sure is funny.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

My 10, 000th visitor

On June 4 I hit a milestone when I had my 10, 000th visitor, from a place called Energis in the United Kingdom.

Sitemeter has many unique features, including information about the countries of your visitors. I learned this about England by following the links.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Reading can make you smarter

I can across an article
summarizing an article called What Reading Does to Your Mind. Not surprisingly, the author makes the claim that reading:

increases vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching;

substantially boosts general knowledge while decreasing the likelihood that misinformation will be absorbed; and

helps keep our memory and reasoning abilities intact as we age.

This led me to think about the effects of reading to your child. I've seen so self-declared "experts" claim parental involvement does not have that great of an effect on school achievement. I say bullsnort. No surprise that many of the people who make that claim, and the others who pass it on as gospel, are not actually teachers.