Monthly Archives: December 2012

New Year’s Resolution

I am not one to make a list of “New Year’s Resolutions” and keep it posted on my fridge. It may be something that other folks find helpful, but for me, it just isn’t. However, this year I DO have ONE resolution: I WILL STOP SHOPPING AT WAL-MART!

Common sense and logic long ago left a nagging feeling that I wasn’t helping anyone by shopping at Wal-Mart, unless you count the Walton family I guess. But, you know, it is SO convenient to walk into a Super Center and be able to do all your shopping in one place. This is especially true when gas prices go up and a 10 minute drive is needed to do any sort of shopping at all. There are no “mom and pop” corner stores in my neck of the woods, and the need for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread means getting in your vehicle and making that drive. I understand why so many of my friends and neighbors call it our “shopping mall.” You can find just about anything you need or want at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter just minutes from home, as opposed to trekking to multiple stores or driving at least 30 minutes to the suburbs.

As the year winds down, and we have made our resolution known to family and friends, the response is a look of horror – “You’ll spend a lot more on groceries and other stuff you know!” Well, we might but then again, we might not. With a membership at a Costco-like store, we can stock up on a lot of things for far less than we were spending each week at Wal-Mart. With coupons and member privilege cards at other grocery stores, we can get higher quality products than we were getting at Wal-Mart for only a few dollars more.

What my friends and family don’t understand is that our decision to stop shopping at Wal-Mart really has nothing at all to do with saving money. It is a morality thing for us. The Black Friday workers’ strikes brought to light the deplorable conditions that employees are subjected to. In our own local Wal-Mart, when the butchers whispered about joining a union – they were all cut, and the meat sold there now comes in on trucks from who knows where.

When I tell people about the Walton Family Foundation’s involvement in the privatization of public schools, they stare at me like I’m from another planet. If you, like them, don’t quite understand our decision or resolution, I’ve included a few links that perhaps will persuade you to consider doing the same.

http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/03/shop-at-walmart-kill-public-school.html

http://walmart1percent.org/education/

http://www.statisticbrain.com/wal-mart-company-statistics/

http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/

Happy New “Wal-Mart Free” Year everyone!

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Dirty Work

Yes, I’m a fool, and yes, I keep doing their dirty work. As a teacher in NY State, with no other job opportunities or a nest egg to retire with, I am going to be doing the ‘dirty work’ of implementing the CCSS. Yes, I know it’s not good for kids. Yes, I know I could always just resign. Yes, I’m aware that I don’t HAVE to keep doing their dirty work, but I also have mouths to feed, bodies to clothe ,and I have grown accustomed to living indoors.

These links will give you a look into the “dirty work” that teachers all across NY, along with me are being asked to do on behalf of reformers that haven’t listened to our voices at all. There were no teachers involved in the design of these reforms, and even worse NYSUT, AFT, and NEA have been rallying behind them. It’s easy, I believe, to rally around something when you have no idea what it means in a classroom. For my primary grade students, it means an almost wholesale loss of “free play” – a critical part of their social and emotional development. It means that every child should be at the same place at the same time, which flies in the face of anything that we KNOW about child and brain development.

http://engageny.org/resource/grades-k-2-ela-curriculum-plan

http://engageny.org/resource/required-fluencies-in-the-common-core-standards-for-math

http://engageny.org/resource/prekindergarten-grade-5-mathematics-curriculum-map

http://engageny.org/resource/publishers-criteria-for-elaliteracy-and-math

http://engageny.org/content/nys-common-core-k-8-social-studies-framework-is-now-posted

http://engageny.org/common-core-curriculum

I feel I must make it clear that I am not opposed to ‘standards’. I am opposed to standards that have been created and forced on us simply for the PROFIT of textbook companies, test publishers and educational entrepreneurs. There has been little to no thought about educating the “whole child”. The end goal is to raise test scores – not to be concerned about a child’s emotional well-being.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/eight-problems-with-common-core-standards/2012/08/21/821b300a-e4e7-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_blog.html

I may not be able to walk away, although at times I’d like to, but there are things I CAN do. I can inform my colleagues of the flaws in the CCSS and our test obsessed environment. I CAN attend rallies. I CAN tell parents what I think. I CAN post the following in my classroom:

A Declaration-KenRev-611×17

Keeping On

It was a very long week. I suspect I would be saying that no matter what, because the week before an extended break typically feels like the “longest week ever”, but this week was especially long in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

After learning on that terrible day that a colleague’s mother works at Sandy Hook, and that it was HIS elementary school, I was even more shaken than I had been when I started to hear the reports of the heinous crime.

That night, our boys’ basketball teams had a home game. We all stood for a moment of silence. There were many eyes being dried that night. Following the game, my sons came home and hugged me tight. We talked about what happened, what teachers do, and when they asked if I would do the same my response was “I certainly HOPE SO – it’s my job to keep them safe AND I’m sure your teachers would do the same thing too.”

Over the weekend, I searched for helpful information about how I was going to talk to my students, who are around the same age as the child victims, about this horror. When they arrived Monday morning and not one of them asked or talked about, we just “kept on” They made ornaments for their parents with their pictures. They reveled in the activity, while I reflected on the fact that there may very well be 20 of the same in Connecticut that may be even more precious to parents this year. As I wiped my eyes, telling my students that I had a cold, I was so very thankful that each of them was safe.

That day, we all received an email from our Superintendent with numerous links to places where we could find information about how to talk to our students. We were also given links to help US deal with our emotions, and asked to refer anyone who appeared to have trouble coping to the counselor. It was what we needed that day – compassion, empathy and help.

As the week continued, we moved to our next ornament making day and it was an angel – a craft I had chosen long before Sandy Hook. Again, I had trouble containing MY emotions as I watched them create this ornament. Again, I told them I had a cold as I watched and wondered how 20 sets of parents were coping.

Wednesday evening was our Winter Concert Again, a moment of silence. Again, the grabbing the tissues and the arms instinctively wrapping around our children in the audience. . The last piece of the evening was our Symphonic Band playing “Silent Night” while the students from each chorus sang the first verse. It was, of course, beautiful and moving.

Yesterday, our Elementary students put on the annual “Winter Show”. Each grade level performs some song or dance or skit. The teachers get in on the act, and perform all kinds of silliness to entertain our students and their parents. Again, a moment of silence followed by the lighting of 26 candles and a stirring solo of “O Holy Night.”

We all kept on this week. We all did what our students needed. If it was not talking, we didn’t talk. If it was talking, we talked. In the lunchroom, we talked about our own security plans. We talked about  the incredible pain that none of us would wish on anyone. We rallied around our colleague and stopped by to check on him. We did what  I would guess teachers did all over the country – we kept going in a way that was developmentally appropriate for our students. We just kept going on……

The Things I Have Seen

I have spent more than half my life teaching Primary grades. In those years, I have seen more school shootings than I care to remember, two Space Shuttles explode killing everyone, the attacks on 9-11, and local events that didn’t make national news, but affected me as a teacher just the same.

There are no words that I have to comfort anyone, because I can’t comfort myself over yesterday’s mass shooting of small children in Newtown, CT. Every graphic I see, every blog post I read makes me cry. I don’t know what I will say on Monday when my students return to school. Will they have questions? Will they be afraid? Will they ask me if it could ever happen at our school?

Because our school does have woods surrounding it, I stand vigilant during every fire drill, my eyes scanning the tree line and hill – wondering if someone is going to take that opportunity to wreak havoc on us. When we practice our “Code Red” drill, I demonstrate how I will lock the door, put them in the bathroom (thank goodness I have a new room with an IDEA accessible bathroom) and stand outside the door. I “promise” them that it is my job to take care of them, and that I will. They are, after all, young children who don’t need to know all the gory details about why we practice this drill so I don’t tell them that we do this in case someone comes to our school with a weapon. Do I need to do that now?

Every day, when I enter that building, and those children come to my room – I am acting “in loco parentis”. It is my DUTY to treat each of them as if they were my own child. It is my DUTY to protect them, to help them, to be sure they are fed and clothed. This I believe with all of my being.

I know that we will laugh more, play more, sing more, and hug more now. I know that I need to make their days in my classroom joyful and loving. I know that the little things that were driving me crazy on Friday morning won’t seem so big on Monday morning. I know that I will cherish even more the hand scrawled notes telling me that I am “grate”.

 

Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose – not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.
Anne Sullivan