Wednesday, December 19, 2012

School Safety?

In the wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut I haven't felt like writing much.  Being responsible for an elementary building & it's students safety, as well as having small children of my own in school made sleep fairly evasive this past Friday.  Further, I wasn't so sure the prevailing news in our field made silly stories about school life or bitches about educational policy particularly appropriate.

There's obviously been a lot of reaction and emotion offered up in response to this tragedy in schools nationwide.  We've seen a lot more police around my school, and we've added additional supervision and intensified focus on our end to reassure our families that our school is a safe place for children.

Yesterday, I attended our regular administrative meeting.  We talked about the climate at our respective schools and the various reactions we'd encountered in the days following the shooting.  Different principals and central office administrators began sharing ideas they had to increase safety and hopefully prevent a similar massacre from ever occurring at one of our schools.

I heard a suggestion that bullet proof glass be installed.  One principal suggested we 'buzz' guests into a holding area and make them identify their intentions through a glass window.  Panic buttons.  Classroom doors locked at all times. Armed officers for each building.  Etc. Etc. Etc.

Below is a picture of one of the weapons used in the tragedy.  This isn't a blog on gun control.  Those discussions are appropriate for some other conversation.  For purposes of operating a school, if someone has one of those guns, and is motivated to cause harm, they're going to be successful.

School leaders need to be careful not to be overly reactionary to this unspeakable tragedy.  Bars, bullet proof glass, and restrictions on other freedoms in the name of safety do not solve or prevent what happened.  Most of the previous school shootings were carried out by students who walked right through the door without any trouble.

Presuming every parent, maintenance worker, delivery person, or other guest who comes to our doors may be there to do evil or kill is unhealthy, unfair, and fails to model for children how civilized adults behave.  It's bad for community, and again, doesn't prevent a motivated murderer from entering a school.  

My prayers and thoughts continue to be directed towards the grieving community of Newtown.  I applaud President Obama for his touching speech Sunday night and look forward to hearing what his preventative plan will be.

Till then, hug and love your kids.  Take reasonable precautions to keep kids safe.  A seat belt is a reasonable precaution.  Refusing to only ride in a tank in case a collision occurs isn't.  The same goes for our schools.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Embarrassing Moments In Potassium Source History

Oddly enough since I came from a fairly populated area, I only had one student teacher my entire school career as a student- Peter Hall.

Mr. Hall took over my junior year high school health class.  He wasn't particularly talented and my guess is he did not receive a passing grade for his efforts (as I plodded through my own student teaching I thought about Peter Hall quite a bit).  As a class (and I can only speak for my 48 minutes a day with him), we were awful to him.  Since we were juniors were both naturally cool  (in our minds) and super big pricks (in everyone else's).  We smelled blood on this goof and went for the kill daily.  

The ultimate low moment started when it was time for the boys and girls to separate.  The cooperating teacher (a female) took the girls and we were left with Mr. Hall.  His task was to demonstrate how to put on a condom.  This kind of shit is awkward enough on it's own, but Mr. Hall producing a banana to serve as his model erection probably didn't help things.

Things went from awkward to pathetically embarrassing real quick.  We sat their silently watching poor Peter Hall.  He stood at the front of the room fumbling and struggling... to get the rubber out of the package.  Ouch.

I gotta tell you... it really killed the mood.....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Million Dollar Smile

Phillip is a highly autistic (academically low) 5th grader in our school.  He's high quirky, but well liked by his classmates and teachers.  The problem with Phillip was that his teeth looked like he'd been smoking a pack of Marlboro's a day since birthday.  They were yellow.  Phillip was afraid of the dentist and refused to go.

Phillip's teacher and the teaching assistant who worked in Phillip's classroom began to show Phillip daily "BrainPop" videos on going to the dentist (BrainPop is a website that offers short educational videos), as well reading with him short informational picture books on going to dentist.

After a couple weeks of this, Phillip agreed to go get his teeth cleaned.  He came back the next next excited as could be, showing his (noticeably) whiter teeth to anyone with at least one good eye.  Phillip's parents were extremely grateful for the help.      

This tale represents another issue I have with the continued practice of measuring educators performance, talent, and efforts based off of test scores.  Where will Phillip's teacher's success in getting a frightened boy, way overdue for a cleaning, to the dentist?  How will this obvious teaching success be measured?

Phillip will not pass standardized tests.  Ever.  I can only assume that this teacher will be reminded by some district savior of the high standards they need to maintain with special education students and then handed a series of charts which shows what everyone already knew- Phillip is low and behind grade level.  It's possible under some administrations that if knowledge of the teacher's actions were known he might be reprimanded for deviating for the districts curriculum (Rigor! Rigor! Rigor!).

Formative testing information provide schools with some clues to help drive instructional decisions.  However, anyone who actually works inside a school understands that the variables that affect these tests outcomes are too numerous and unique in nature to begin listing.  Measuring a teachers and schools on student performance data alone is irresponsible, bad for moral, and bad for community.  So why again are we spending roughly 1/3 of the year in American schools prepping & administering standardized assessments?