Wednesday, September 22, 2010
There has been a lot of debate lately, especially among evangelicals, about the best education options for our children. I am adding my voice to the debate as a teacher who has worked in the public schools for the past six years. Let me also state that these viewpoints come from my time at teaching at the HIGHEST performing high school in my county, a state School of Distinction. These are my reasons why, God willing, I will homeschool my child, no doubt!
1. Schools are not designed to serve all students.
If you have not been in a public school in the past 5 years, you have no idea what the schools are being asked/told to do. Under the current No Child Left Behind law, schools are rewarded for moving 4-5 kids in a class up an academic level. If your student is a high achiever, the schools are not rewarded for his or her progress. What does this mean? This means that discussions of merit pay, school rankings, etc are based on the performance of 25% of the kids. If your child is in the other 75%, they will NOT be the focus of the school. It also means all the money being poured into education is not going to ALL schools, it is going to the lowest performing. Your child attends a medium to high performing school? No money for his school or its programs- only the poorest, worst performing schools see real money.
2. Teachers are asked to do more and more that has less and less to do with actual teaching.
One of my pet peeves is to hear people complain that teachers are overpaid, or say that “Well at least you get summers off”. Here is a run down of the things I am asked to do on a daily to weekly basis:
· Keep a data notebook with grades, student samples, parent contacts and rationales of my teaching methods
· Participate in 1-2 weekly staff meetings lasting 1-2 hours each
· Contact parents for any absences, low grades, etc. When dealing with 75 kids, this means I easily have 5-10 contacts to make each week. A contact doesn’t count if I leave a message, get a bad #, etc. I have to track down the parent and speak with them. This can mean 5 contacts equals 15 phone calls around.
· Keep an updated webpage for each class I teach with lesson plans, resources, announcements, etc
· Get progress reports and report cards ready every three weeks- this means papers are graded right away and entered into a complicated computer system for all to see
· Participate in 5 scheduled observations, each with its own pre and post conference. That means 10 conferences with my principal. This does not include all the “unofficial” walk through reviews I get that I must look over. All of this is done to fill out my 10 page, yes 10 page, individual evaluation for the year. And I am only evaluated to the level of my weakest subpoint. I can be distinguished in 20 things, and proficient in 1 and I am, you guessed it, proficient.
·Incorporate the “Big 6” into my lesson plans- it is no longer enough to teach, I must use writing to learn, questioning, groupwork, literature circles, scaffolding, and class talk in my lessons. Your child doesn’t do well with groupwork? Too bad because I have to use it.
· Participate in staff development. Just this summer, my “time off” I spent 3 unpaid weeks at various conferences and trainings. 3 weeks away from my family, while students relaxed and never looked at a book.
· Meet with a central office instructional coach and a state instructional coach. Our state coach is only here 30 days a year- only one/sixth of the year. As part of those visits, we have more observations, more pre and post conferences, and more data to collect
And after all this, I get to actually plan my daily lessons!
3. Society as a whole doesn’t care about your child, they want their child handed every opportunity, even if that means your child is left in the dust.
Education used to be a three way partnership between parents, students, and teachers. No longer. In fact, I recently was told by a well paid “expert” that student success was 13% due to school administration and 87% due to teachers. Really???? Wow! Glad to know students and parents play no role in their own education. In fact, students today are well trained by the parents to argue over grades, ask for extra credit and hand-outs, and when all else fails, to complain about the teacher to administration. Your child worked hard to turn a project in on time? The students who turned it in 3 days late wants the same grade and momma will get you if you “deny” her child. There is no reward for doing what you should, rather there are rewards for doing nothing then complaining about it.
4. Curriculum is all over the map with no rhyme or reason.
In the six years I have been teaching, there have been two major changes to the high school curriculum. This means that just when teachers are learning what they are to teach, what they are to teach changes. There is no real reason, just more money being poured out to companies that develop the “rigorous” state tests. Rigorous in that you must make a 50-60% to pass. That is not a standard I hold for my child.
This is just a snippet of education today. And this is a snippet of why I will homeschool my child- one teacher/parent to another.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
If you haven't experienced the TV show, The Imagination Movers, or heard their music- you must! This is the one children's show I don't mind Kellen watching over and over. The Movers is a group of four fun guys who came together to make wholesome, educational, fun music for kids. Their music led to a TV show on Disney, and if my son is any indication, they are tearing up the kiddie scene, as they well should. Their show focuses on themes such as creativity, kindness, responsibility, and team work. You won't find violence, dirty jokes, or bad attitudes here.
Besides loving the show, we rock two Mover's CD's in the car- Juice Box Heroes and For Those About to Hop. How can you not love songs that have tones of the Beastie Boys, Devo, big bands, or dance/hip-hop? Any kids band that can work in "The rooster, the rooster, the rooster is tired" is a friend of mine. Some of their songs include titles like Please and Thank You, I Love my Mommy, Seven Days a Week, In the Fridge, and My Favorite Snack.
A kid's show that is wholesome, music mommy doesn't mind listening to- it doesn't get better than the Imagination Movers!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
* seeing lightening bugs light up the yard
* eating ice cream of all sorts- sandwiches, cones, blizzards
* sitting by the pool with a good book
* watching my son ride his bike around the driveway
* feeling the breeze of a fan
* the sound of a lawn mower and the smell of fresh cut grass
* the smell of suntan lotion on a 3 year old
* the sound of thunder
* the way the air smells after it storms
* afternoon naps- thanks to my summers off!
* preschool field trips
* playing baseball until dusk falls
* seeing my flowers bloom
* dreaming of day trips to the beach
* spending a weekday at Marbles
* going to a movie
* just being home with my family!
Summer, my friend, I am glad you're here!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Here's where we are as far as illegal immigration in NC goes:
FAIR estimates in 2004 that the taxpayers of North Carolina spent $771.1 million per year on illegal aliens and their children in public schools.
As a school teacher being confronted daily with budget cuts and the utter poverty that many American citizens are living in, this one is hard for me. I find we fall further and further behind in serving students because our resources are spread too thin. Many school systems have resorted to begging their taxpayers for more money, but many families simply cannot afford more property taxes. We have to take a hard look at what we CAN reasonably offer people without putting all people and citizens at risk. It bothers me to think that my child will suffer in our public school system because of the resources being siphoned off in such large numbers.
FAIR’s projected annual fiscal costs to North Carolina taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration resulting if an amnesty plan is adopted for illegal residents:
Can the taxes brought in by legalizing immigrants really cover this gap? What jobs will these immigrants be taking- probably the same ones they are now, low paying jobs that will result in little to no tax responsibility. How many immigrants will be working highly skilled professional jobs, thus leading to a higher tax responsibility? I think the argument that legalizing immigrants will lead to more tax payers is flawed and simplistic.
In 2005 21.8 percent of immigrants in North Carolina had incomes below the poverty level, an increase of 50.7 percent since 2000
The saddest part of this statistic is that those most affected are often the children. I have a hard time punishing children for their parents deeds and so many of our illegal student base had no choice in coming to the US. Many are working hard to obtain their citizenship and I applaud that. I think perhaps our place for ministry is not to overturn or rebel against the laws put forth in this case, but to assist and support immigrants in their quest to go through the proper channels to become citizens. I think our ministry role-as the church, not the government- is also to watch over the basic human dignities of these "aliens in a foreign land" by feeding them when they are hungry, clothing them when they are poor, teaching them English so that they can operate within the larger societal systems, and showing them that God is bigger than any situation. What message to we send as Christians when we put such a large emphasis on the need to overthrow laws rather than rely on God's sovereignty and the daily physical ministry we as the church are called to do? Many people (Christian and non-christian) are up in arms over the "civil rights" of our illegal immigrants but what are they really doing to help make the situations so many illegals are in bearable? How many churches are reaching out to serve these groups? How many of us are in the schools helping these students adapt to the academics expected? How many of us are working at community centers to help these immigrants adjust to the US in a positive way, rather than going down the fast money path of drug dealing or gang banging?
I think as Christians it's time for us to STOP looking to the extremes and instead to focus on putting the rubber to the road when it comes to serving others as Christ has called us to. And in the meantime, I will support the rule of law in this country and the public officials who for good or bad, are under the sovereignty of God.
Friday, April 16, 2010
1. Team Photo- note the twin towers
2. The graffiti says it all
3. My action group
4. Waiting for the train
5. Some kids we tutored
6. St. Paul's church- now a spot to remember the victims of 9/11
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Every time spring rolls around I think about the city and all of the blessings I received from her. I think about the friends I made, the laughs we shared, and the growth that happened. I find myself often dividing my reflections into the personal and spiritual, and I smile so often when thinking about my summer. Personally, here are some of the memories and moment I cherish:
· Watching the sunset from the rooftop deck of my discipler’s apartment
· Getting up at 4:00 am with friends to head to the Today Show
· Getting up at 4:00 am to secure front row seats to the Broadway show Aida
· Walking through Central Park with my girls Liz and Caroline
· Laughing hysterically when my roommate said “Grace and Peace, and please be quiet I am trying to sleep”
· Laughing again hysterically after our room was searched for “stolen” offering plates- I mean really, what would we have done with those?
· Sharing a shower with 20 other girls and not complaining
· Falling asleep to the breeze of a fan and the sounds of the city
· Riding the subway to the end of the line and back again
· Having my quiet times in the corner window of Border’s at the WTC that overlooked St. Paul’s church
· $1.50 pizza, need I say more?
· Watching the 4th of July fireworks as they were fired from the Hudson River
· Watching tree branches smack my friends in the head as we rode a big blue bus (Blue Cheese) back from a camp retreat
There are a million more personal moments I could share but really, the greater blessing for me was a spiritual and emotional one. While there were uncountable blessings, I want to share a few:
· Spending time with 50 other college students of all backgrounds, all sharing one goal
· Making friends with incredible people who I still think of, pray for, and love even though time has separated us- love you Lizzy!
· Spending hours sitting on a curb with my BFF Liz talking about God, life, school, family- anything
· Getting to worship in churches all over the city, with a diverse group of people
· Getting to work with Daniel- a street prayer warrior- who left his heart on the streets with the people he met
· Serving up food at a homeless shelter and praying for the souls eating the meals
· Being in an incredible action group with some incredible young women, all of who taught me something about life through their own experiences
· By planning and praying over our weekly meetings- there is nothing like being in a small room, with no AC, singing praise songs with 50 other people
· Sitting in the weekly lecture of Tony Carnes (I later found out, an editor of Christianity Today), learning about the religious heritage of NYC
· Meeting so many awesome people in NYC and being convinced of the plan God has for that city and its people- even more so now post-9/11!
Can you see why I miss it just a little? I have GOT to get back there!
Pics will be posted soon- as soon as I figure out how to scan them!
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Sat: Hit the road early, drive to Orlando, spend one night at POP! on the Disney property. Turns out this is one of the cheapest hotels in Orlando for that weekend, plus we'll have some cool things to look at while we tour POP! and play at the pool.
Sun: Check-in to Animal Kingdom Lodge and relax. Head to Chef Mickey's for dinner then take a monorail ride.
Mon: Go to Animal Kingdom, then relax at the pool.
Tues: Check-out of Animal Kingdom Lodge, check-in to Wilderness Lodge (this is a change, we are wait listed for Beach Club). Go to Hollywood Studios.
Wed: Magic Kingdom! Start with breakfast at Crystal Palace with Pooh and friends, end the day with fireworks and the parade!
Thur: Pool day before going to Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party.
Fri: Magic Kingdom again. Lunch at the Plaza Restaurant.
Sat: Head home
Have I mentioned I can't wait?????????
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
In short, I left the meeting feeling utterly beaten down, utterly disrespected by "colleagues", and utterly disgusted with the mind-sets that so many of our children are being exposed to. We as teachers fight day in and day out to be recognized as professionals who are working our hardest to help students achieve success but then we fall into the trap of arguing over eggs. Rotten eggs to me.
Tonight I am reflecting and processing what I heard today and my overall response is one of sheer gratitude to work at my school, surrounded by others who truly care about improving education, and surrounded by people who I know will lift me back up tomorrow, even if I am covered in rotten eggs.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
I read with vested interest this morning a newspaper article outlining some of the changes in your proposed education plan. With all due respect sir, you have missed the boat on many key issues in education.
To start here’s my background:
I work at the highest performing high school in my county, a redesigned high school in which students get their high school diploma and a 2 year college degree for free! We are a school with a high number of impoverished, underrepresented students. We draw from all public middle schools, provide county busing to our school, pay for college books, provide tutoring weekdays and weekends, and yet out of 2000+ rising 9th graders last year, fewer than 100 applied. The fact that every parent in our county did not have their child apply is a major red flag about how our communities perceive the value of education. We have about 230 students, with an average class size of 18. Personally, I was student teacher of the year in college, and have been the highest performing teacher in my county, in my content area the past four years. I say that not to be prideful but to show that I have some clue about what I am about to say.
Here are the issues with education and the problems in your plan:
Successful education takes three elements: students, parents, and teachers. You cannot punish one, in your plan the teachers, for what the other two are not doing. More and more teachers are pulling the dead weight of parents and students who do not care about education. Why should they? They can simply drop out, have babies, and get a free check from the government. Sounds great to me! Seriously, we have to create consequences for not getting an education and they need to be consequences aimed at the student and parent.
Currently, public education is managed by the local, state, and federal government, with people elected to school boards who have no education background or experience. Show me a hospital in which all medical decisions are made by an 18 year old farmer, a 50 year old stay at home mom, a 75 year old retiree, and a 45 year old politically charged community member. They don’t exist, yet those are the same people we let make policy decisions about how our schools will be run. It’s time to get educators making key education decisions, not individuals who have not been in a classroom in several decades. As for school administration, with all due respect to your illustrious secretary of ed, administrators who have not been on-site at a school and actively involved in classroom teaching in the last 5 years don’t know what’s going on in schools. They pay it lip service but they do not know. When was the last time members of your education team planned 180 days worth of lesson plans? When was the last time they were faced with standardized test prep, college prep work, tutoring sessions, and daily interactions with parents? Lastly on this note, let’s think about this. There has been more and more government involvement with education, with worse and worse results. See the correlation?
Lastly, over the past decade teachers have been required to meet more and more standards, yet students continue to fall behind. It is more difficult to become a teacher and stay a teacher today than it was in 2000. Teachers must past exams that demonstrate their content knowledge, complete a set number of continuing education credits each year to stay licensed, participate in school based professional development (in my case, twice a month), create personalized education plans for students at risk of failing, and yet what has happened to student performance? Last summer alone, I gave up three weeks of my family time for professional development. It is not a teacher issue, it is a community issue, a student issue, and most importantly a parent issue. We often hear the cry for more tutoring, more one on one interaction in our schools. We have tutors and one on one interaction. It’s called parents who sit down with their student at the kitchen table to get schoolwork done. It breaks my heart to see more and more of this generation raised by everyone BUT their parent. It is not my job to raise a child, it is my job to educate them and I have an hour and a half each day to do that. Parents have 16 hours to do that.
In closing, I challenge you to rise above the easy rhetoric and the loud political voices yelling about education. Get together with teachers facing the challenges every day. Talk to students who don’t have a political agenda. They’ll tell you what’s going on in schools. If you sincerely try to get to the heart of the matter, we can turn education around. If we listen to the politicos trying to place easy blame, schools will never improve.
With much respect,
Alison Baker on behalf of teachers everywhere
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Who: All of us- Alison, Jesse, and Kellen!
When: October 10th-16th, 2010
Where: Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas (2 nights), Beach Club Villas (4 nights)
We feel so blessed to have connected with a Disney Vacation Club owner who is renting us points for a studio villa at a much cheaper rate than a regular moderate Disney resort! This way we will have a kitchenette to save on some food costs plus we get to stay at some awesome resorts on the cheap!
How: By car (not sure how the car trip will go, any tips, please share!)
Sunday- Arrive, check-in, Downtown Disney (I assume Kellen will tear up the Lego Store...)
Monday 11th- Animal Kingdom and the pool
Tuesday 12th- Hollywood Studios
Wednesday 13th- Magic Kingdom
Thursday 14th- Pool Day and Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party
Friday 15th- Magic Kingdom
Saturday 16th- Depart
Reasoning: Thinking about this trip, we heard a lot of comments for and against. In the end, while Kellen may be young (3 1/2), we feel that the time to make family memories is now. Kellen won't remember everything we do, but Jesse and I will, and more than anything, we will enjoy time together as a family. We view this as our last hoorah as a family of three before we think about adding another child (no, not pregnant now...). For me, it's about time away from the normal routine, time to relax, laugh, play, and just spend time interacting without jobs, house, chores, errands distracting us. Those of you who have been to Disney with a small child, I would love to hear some feedback/comments!
We'll keep you posted as the trip approaches!
Monday, March 8, 2010
This article quickly became a talking point around our conference table in the teachers office. What does it mean to be a good teacher? What do we as teachers know about educating students that the general public does not? How do we continue to improve our practice? With these questions swirling, and our own successes and failures being reflected upon, I came up with my own Top Ten Teacher Rules. This is a very short list of some of the things I believe are important to make my classroom the best it can be.
Top Ten Teacher Rules:
1. Know every student's name and use them frequently- in the classroom, in the hallways, in the lunch room, anywhere you see your students.
Let's face it- not knowing someone's name or calling someone by the wrong name comes across as rude and uncaring. Get to know your students, get to know their nicknames, and always greet them when you see them.
2. Use a timer
Nothing will derail a lesson faster than getting off track. I use a timer for all activities in which the students are working somewhat independently ( and yes, I teach high school). They may get 2-3 minutes for a warm-up, 10 minutes for some key questions, 30 minutes for a group activity. By using a timer (I project mine on the wall), it keeps me and the students on task.
3. Keep activities 20-30 minutes in length
Kids don't have long attention spans- enough said.
4. Move, move, move around the room
Physical proximity is a great classroom management tool. It also allows me to quickly interact with students about their work in a private way, and to give lots of pats on the backs for good work.
5. Assign seats and change them randomly
Who are students going to sit by if given the choice? Their friends (Duh, right?). While this can be good, it is also a major cause of distraction. I always assign seats, even in my high school honors classes. As I get to know my students, I frequently rearrange seats to put students near other students I feel they will work well with. Note- I do NOT put them next to people they will best socialize with.
Rules 6-10 coming soon....stay tuned!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
To me, there is nothing better than a good book. I can easily read a book in a one sitting, and there have been many nights when I have won the fight against sleep to finish a good page turner. I am so thankful that my mom fostered my love of reading, starting at an early age. Here's a glimpse into my reading world.
Just put down:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
This started out strong, with lots of mystery but became a bit much for my spirit. I love a good mystery and some of my favorite authors write from a non-Christian worldview. This book just became too much and I had to put it down. It's disappointing when books with a lot of hype end up being filled with trash. Will move on in my reading list...
Some of my all time favorites:
Boundaries with Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
These get broken out every now and again for a good meditation before bed, or when I am bored and need something to stimulate my mind. They have really helped develop my parenting mind-set.
Next up on the to-read list:
Raising Happiness by Christine Carter
Though not written from a strict Christian worldview, I have been following Christine's Half Full blog for a while now and love her insights! She is a trained sociologist and mother- we get academics, research, and heart all in one book!
Monday, March 1, 2010
"When our kids are young, the temptation is to let life slip by, as though a day is an inconsequential penny rather than the invaluable treasure it really is...Why is it that when our kids are young, we can't just sit sit back and enjoy the here and now?"
What moments are passing us by? What are we letting distract us? For me, my tendency to worry has often overshadowed the time spent with my family. My hope for the future is not about the bigger house, the better car, or the best job. It's the simple hope of memories made over potties and pee.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Lg. Box Chicken Broth (2)
Enchilada Sauce-lg. jar
Baked beans (4)
Corn Muffin Mix (2)
Beef Bouillon Cubes
Chicken Bouillon Cubes
100 ct. sandwich bags-resealable
5 lb Sugar
5 lb Flour
Taco Seasoning (2)
100 % Apple Juice
Apricot Preserves (2)
Mini Beef Ravioli (3)
Cake Mix (2)
Animal Crackers- lg box
Thin Pork Chops-2 lbs
Filet of Sirloin- 24 oz
80% Ground Beef- 2 lbs
Gen. Tso’s Chicken- 2 lbs
Sugar Free Junior Popsicles
French Toast sticks
Frosted Puffs Cereal (2)
Solid White Tuna
Cheddar Cheese Slices
Provolone Cheese Slices
Shredded Sharp Cheddar- 3 cups
Shredded Mexican Cheese- 3 cups
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Shredded Romano Cheese
Bag of sweet onions
Lg. Sour Cream
Butter Quarters (2 boxes)
Jar of Sliced Peaches (2)
Total Cost? $98. Yes, $98 for all the staples I will need to cook for the month and some staples that will last me several months.
I heart Aldi's.