27 April 2010

The Inside Track

My student teaching situation is a bit unconventional.  I am interning with two teachers in two different classrooms, on two different days.  One teacher meets with her kids everyday, and the other meets with hers only every other day.  The everyday class is an Alternative Education class where the students come and go throughout the day and work on getting credits from independent work and custom-made curriculum.  These students have been suspended or expelled at some point in the district, some have behavioral issues, and some have emotional behavioral issues that stem from learning disabilities.  The other class is the Special Education Transition Program for the district.  The students there are 18-21 years old, and they are learning to live and work in the real world; they will also discover what level of independent living they will be able to manage in the long run. 

I've been spending my student teaching constantly changing gears from one class to the next, and back again.  But what makes my experience so unique is that both of the teachers I'm working with are going to be retiring at the end of this year.  THis doesn't mean I will be able to easily step into their classes when the positions become available.  In fact, both of their positions would be too difficult for a noobie eacher like myself to handle in their first year.  What is unique is the conversations I get to have with both of them.  I am able to chat with these two educational sages and they get to reflect on their careers and tell me what they would have liked to have accomplished, what they wish education could be like, and what positions are not yet posted that are available. 

The last thing is the inside track I am  wanting to talk about.  These two ladies have connections I can only hope to gain over my educational career.  I was telling one about the districts in the area that i have applied to so far (Issaquah SD, Lake Washington SD, Renton SD, and Snoqualmie Valley SD) and with each one, she mentioned someone who she had a connection with who was not a teacher, but a director of this, or the chair of that department.  I don't want my first position to be from a favor; the first teaching year is supposed to be hard enough.  But in conversatios with the other teacher, she mentions positions the district is looking for that it hasn't posted yet, and the people that may go for it, and what kind of person the ditrict is looking for.  Information is a weapon, and something that I can use to my advantage. 

The quesion then become: how do I get this information to work for me without taking advantage of favors that ma not be necessary to call in?

15 April 2010

SpEd vs. Senate Bill 6 & Budget Cuts


Recent news stories in special education point towards the same ideas: Budget Cuts, and Special Education Spending.  The two seem in opposition to one another.  In one article The Florida Senate is trying to pass Senate Bill 6 where teacher pay would be linked to student test scores.  In the realm of Special Education, this is a horrific concept, because success for these students cannot be measure by test scores.  The ability to tie your own shoe or independently use the bathroom is not a question on a test.  Luckily, today Gov. Crist Vetoed the bill.  My Fox Tampa quoted the Governor as saying, "There must be more attention to their special needs."  He mentions how the bill ignored this population of schools, but that the bill, in general, was too flawed.  Common sense did win out, and this was a step in the right direction. 

This situation in Florida points to the notion that education reform is needed, but what will it look like?  It will not look like merit-based pay, nor will it look like federal mandates and across-the-board standards.  I also do not believe it will look like a model of business-like cut-throat pressures for success.  It is true that education NEEDS to be reformed, but it will look like a new education model that will not start at the top and make its way down to the students.  I have a hard time beliving my WA Senator in DC has any idea what will help the students in the schools in their own state.  What will work for one district, will not work for its neighboring district.  Therefore, Education reform needs to look like the democratic system in which we live and thrive.  Reform needs to start with the highly trained professionals we trust to enrich the lives of our children.  It takes a community to raise a child in the way that they should go... NOT the government.  The unions should push for influence, power, and respoonsibility of the teachers, not more money.  You give teachers the power to educate the children in the right way, and the parents will fork over the dollars to let their children be taught. 

But I digress.

The second article I was reading was talking about budget cuts in the recession economy and the overspending of Special Education Programs.  What was interesting in the article was the Federal mandates to provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to all students, but they don't provide the funds to the districts so that they can do that.  We argue for more money and smaller classes through the unions, but what we need is the ability to hire the needed professionals to educate the children, and the proper environment that is conducive to learning.  How does this happen?  We need to change what we think about education.  Everything else in society is changing, but we're still trying to stick to the same ideas of what is considered to be "teaching."  Is it more important for a student to know the meaning of the work and recite it for a test, or to be able to find the meaning of whatever words they may come across on their own?  Is it more important for students to loathe dragging themselves through restricted learning methods that are intent on getting test scores, or should we get them to enjoy the learning process so that they will be more willing to step out and venture into the world and discover what it can teach them?  Asking ans discussing these questions will get us on the road to reform. 

01 April 2010

UPDATE - Shifting Expectations of the School Institution

I wrote this in a discussion with my classmates who were discussing the need for parental involvement; where it happens, and where it is hard to get it.  This was my response, which referred to an earlier post.

There is a reason I got into education, and there is a reason I want to get into education administration; the system is flawed. Now, every system is flawed, cracked and can be taken advantage of. However, I think that as society has shifted, education has not shifted fast enough to keep up, and that is normal of government-run institutions. As teachers, we, more than anyone, know what it takes to get student achievement. However, I have heard things that teachers need from outside sources, and I think we need to figure out what it will take for US to create a better system. I want to point you guys to a blog posting I made: http://lifeonsped.blogspot.com/2010/03/shifting-expectations-of-school.html

This illustrates an idea that I was kicking around with my CT the other week. If parents in trying areas have so much trouble helping their children, why not put the help where it is needed... with the students. following the atwork.wa.gov twitter account @janekuechle. She saw my blog posting and was hung up on my comment of "ineffective social programs". I'm not a politician who want to push an agenda of what level of government involvement is needed. My focus is solely on the children, and if we can redirect resources to create more effective programs that are run through the schools and follow the children, then that will help the overall state of our nations education. I know many paras (myself included) who worked two jobs, because they couldn't live off of just working in the schools. If you create social programs, dinner programs, tutoring programs that follow the student, and flow through the school, then people can make a better wage for themselves and families. Teachers can pick up extra hours without having to be a coach or leave their classes if they don't want to. Kids can be off the streets where it is safe, and be surrounded by positive influences for mor than 6 hours of the day. Parents do not have to use tech babysitters like TV and video games, and kids do not need to turn to gangs in order to find a sense of community or brotherhood or family.

I don't think parental involvement is likely to make a drastic change. Parents either care, or they don't about their child's education. If was can keep the kids fed, appropriately socialized, active, and tutored from kindergarten until graduation, then we will have changed the face of education in our country for the better.