Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Rahm doesn't talk about!

I received  this from a teacher who wanted to share a little bit of what the public has not heard over the past month while Rahm and his minions were airing non-stop negative commercials about teachers. 

Top 5 Reasons from my day reminding my why Chicago teachers deserve respect:

5 -
Nurse ONLY available on Monday and Tuesday

Head Lice (on WEDNESDAY, of course)!

If needed, toilet paper must be requested before boys go to the washroom on my floor, which resulted in 2 six year olds returning from the bathroom (with my hallpass) to tell me that they went #2 but didn't have any toilet paper.  (key word here WENT)

Wet, boogery sneezes that either land directly on my keyboards or are ever soooo sweetly carried up to me with remnants hanging from nostrils as a Kleenex is requested.

MY giant puss-filled eye that is crusted shut, hmmm...wonder where that came from???

I requested that a hand sanitizer dispenser be put in my room, so today the engineer came in to drill a hole to put one in...while my class was testing.  This is, by the way, the 4th YEAR that I requested the dispenser :-)

Important to note: Rahm wants kids' test scores to determine teachers' salaries---and I mentioned the drilling, right?  During testing, right?  Seems fair to me as I scratch my head (not because of the lice).

I want Rahm to come visit my lab tomorrow, I have some things I'd like to share :-|

Written by: a CPS teacher

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Will the contract vote pass in the CTU?

Rahm is still allowing those commercials to run on television about the "fair deal" that was negotiated between the Chicago Public Schools (which is led by Rahm) and the Chicago Teacher's Union.   Why is it then that he is already demonizing the teachers stating that in order to pay for this "fair deal" he is going to close 120 schools (which means firing about half of the teachers).  The only winner in this "fair deal" is  Rahm.

I'd write more about the contract details, but I know nothing more than we did last week.  I hope that the details of this "fair deal" will be revealed to us before the vote on October 2, 2012.  As of now, I certainly know what my vote is going to be...

And now that more schools will have art...can this be far behind?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I am not in Florida, but my books are!

Do you live in the Palmetto, Florida area?  Are you planning a vacation there?  If so, I invite you to stop by 

414 10th Ave W  
 Palmetto, Fl 34221

     (941) 479.7825 

A store filled with 
one of a kind items.

A store where there is something for everyone!

I am happy to announce that my books are now available there too!  

The owners, Maria and Vita, also are the owners of Simply Soy Candles.  You can  learn more by clicking on their website here or at the side panel of my blog.

For additional information or questions, e-mail them at 
or call
(941) 479-7825

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

If You're Not haven't been paying attention!

Update:  The CTU strike has been suspended and classes resume tomorrow.  The rank and file will get to vote on the contract in a couple of weeks. 

Before all of the delegates even left the meeting tonight, the media started talking about the number of schools that will be closing...

At the podium, Karen Lewis was asked how the vote went.  She stated it was like 98% to 2%, "but you'll always have those die-hards that hold out no matter what!" about language that is not vague or simply "unknown".  The CTU sent out FAQs about the contract proposal and some of their answers were-
"We do not know the answer yet" AND  "We are not sure of the exact point value."  

In the end, I believe Rahm is going to get the last laugh when the final details of these negotiations are finally revealed!


As I am sure most of you reading this already know, the Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union have agreed to a "framework" for a new contract.  I find the following observations quite interesting.

* Brizard has been silent this whole week and suddenly he is now making statements again.

*Every day this week the Chicago Public School website has posted their latest proposals for the world to see.

*Karen Lewis has been telling the Union members for months now "If you didn't hear if from CTU, it isn't true." 

*Tonight on the news Karen Lewis told the same Union members that they themselves should go to the Chicago Public School's website to read the "framework".  (The same people we were told not to listen to...really?!)

* I went to the Chicago Public School website tonight and, as of this posting, this is all the information being shared.

September 14, 2012

"We have a framework in place for a fair agreement that we believe is good for our teachers, students and taxpayers and look forward to our kids getting back to the classroom."

Jean-Claude Brizard
CEO, Chicago Public Schools

*So, we are now supposed to get information from people we were told not to believe only to find out they are not sharing anyway.

*This Sunday the Union's House of Delegates are to meet...receive the full language of the contract (seeing it for the very first time)....and quickly vote on it that day. (If what I hear is correct, they must vote on it before sundown on Sunday because Rosh Hashanah begins).

 I certainly hope this is not a set-up for history to repeat itself.
We all remember what happened here, don't we?

Click link to be reminded that WE MUST READ BEFORE WE VOTE!
(Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...I hope we have learned our lesson!)

If I was a delegate and did not get enough time to read and digest the contract I would have no choice but to vote NO on it.  If you know a delegate, please pass that message along to them.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hypocrisy at the Top - Let's start with accountability

Though there are many unresolved issues pertaining to the teacher's strike in Chicago, it seems the one Rahm wants to run with is the Teacher Evaluation.  Do I think teachers should be evaluated?  Definitely!  Do I think they should be held accountable?  Absolutely! Do I think that 50% of it should be based on one standardized test? NO! Now on the news you won't hear the 50% number, they are now saying about 28%.  During the first week of school where teachers had to go through professional development about this very tenuous evaluation plan, the little pie charts that were given to us showed that the end game was having 50% of a teacher's evaluation based upon the standardized test. 

What about those teachers whose subject matter is not tested on standardized tests?  Take physical education, for example.  At the grade school level there is little to no reading that takes place during gym class.  After all, the students only get physical education one day a week and they need to move around.  So part of the PE teacher's evaluation will be based on the overall score of the Literacy portion of the test.  Does this make sense? The details of this Evaluation system are not being explained clearly to the public and for good reason...

I started out by saying that I do believe teachers should be evaluated on their performance and be held accountable.  Here are a few suggestions on how that could be done in a way that focuses on the teacher's actual performance.

  • Give the teachers a test every year or two over the content area in which they teach.  If they are not proficient, then there is definitely a performance problem.  If there is a problem, remediation is in order; if they are proficient, move on to the next step.  
  • Teachers already undergo formal observations and some argue that because teachers are aware of the upcoming observations that they can "put on a show" for that one period.  So...keep those formal observations, but then move on to the next step.
  • How about adding informal observations to the list?  After a few unannounced visits, the administration should be able to see if that teacher is actually doing her job all the time, and how well she is getting through to the students.  Is the classroom under control, are the students actively taking part, etc.  If there is a problem, remediation is in order; if the teacher is proficient...move on.

Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head.  I know state law now dictates a small amount of the evaluation must be based on standardized test scores, but a much smaller percentage than what the Board wants.  What if they gave the test at the beginning of the year and than gave the same test at the end?  Is that a better way to measure how much was learned within a year than the system we now have?

I know there are some bad teachers out there, but they are not the majority.  If a teacher is really found to be unsatisfactory  and not proficient in their area and remediation does not change this, then proper steps need to be set forth for dismissal. 

I know I titled this post Hypocrisy at the Top and this is why.  

A displaced teacher (by CPS's standards) is a  teacher who lost their position by no fault of their own.  Meaning their Evaluation ratings were Excellent or Superior (these are CPS terms).  Possible reasons for the displacement might be lower enrollment or budget cuts. Since these teachers were "graded" as being very good, then why doesn't CPS and Rahm want them to be rehired first before going outside of CPS and recruiting new teachers?  They were not fired for being unsatisfactory or negligent or anything like that...using the Board's own term they were displaced.  

Mahalia Hines, a principal,  was quoted in the news yesterday stating, "You can't be held accountable if you can't select the people you work with.  It is just way too difficult." So principals believe they should not be held accountable if they cannot "select" the teachers they have in their schools, but teachers ARE to be held accountable for the students in front of them who they cannot select based on a standardized test over which they have no control...even when teachers do not even teach those subjects.

Utter hypocrisy!

Original quote can be found here:

Monday, September 10, 2012

In response to those who believe everything they hear through the media...

Wow! is all I can say when I hear the term "merit pay" or "differentiated compensation plan".  I have read comment after comment after comment about how the teachers should accept the idea of merit pay "just like so many other professions".  How many other professions do not have control over their outcomes???

You can judge me on my own merit.  How well do I teach math?  Come in my class any time, any day and judge me on how well I know my subject and how well I can convey that to the children I teach.  While in front of me, students take notes, pay attention, ask and answer questions, and actively participate. They get it. Then, one hour later, they are gone.  I get them for one hour a day and then they are "elsewhere" for 23 hours. It doesn't take a math genius to know the odds are against me.  1 out of 24 hours in a day.  I see a child for about 4%  a day and yet over 50% percent of my salary shall be based on the outcome of their test scores and surveys? Give me a break.  I challenge anyone who says "teaching is easy"..."if teachers go on strike, they should be fired"..."oh those greedy teachers"...I'd like to see anyone who thinks teaching is such an easy job to come to any inner city public school and teach for a month...okay...teach for a week.  While you are busy "teaching", don't forget you have to take attendance 4...count 'em 4 different times in the first hour of school.  In our school, we have to account for those kids who are eating a free breakfast.  Then we have to take a count for those children eating the free lunch.  Once that is complete, we have to take actual attendance on a separate form of who is and who is not present in the classroom.  After all that paperwork is finished, we must then input the attendance for the day electronically on the computer.  In the midst of all this, we are teaching reading and writing.  Now, multiply that by 7 hours a day...

If students don't make the grade can they be held back?  Well, only if they are in grades 3,6, and 8.  So when children fail and they know the system (NOT the teacher) will just pass them along, what is their incentive to improve? 

Then when the dismissal bell rings, I no longer have any control over that student.   It is not my job, nor in the realm of reality that I am able to make sure that those same children who were so active and engrossed in my class continue that interest at home.  I am not in charge of making sure their homework is finished, making sure the children have a good dinner, making sure the kids get to bed on time.  (Way back when, in the "good ol' days, that was the job of the parents...not the government, the teachers, or fellow tax payers.  Parents took responsibility for their children.)  The thing of it is I can't actually just fault the parents.  I fault the government too.  The government has worked very hard over the past few decades to make people was Rush Limbaugh, I believe, who coined the phrase "cradle to grave" and by gosh the government is succeeding on this one.  The government loves the idea that its citizens are dependent upon it for EVERYTHING.  Everything that is except making sure we can actually deliver a great education no matter how qualified the teachers are standing in those classrooms.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The 3 R's: Reading, Riting, and Rahm (Updated and with pictures!)

By now most of you reading this know that the Chicago Teacher's Union has gone on strike.  It's late and I must be up early to "walk the line", so I will leave you with this tonight.

Rahm was just on the news stating (at least 3 times) that this is a "strike of choice".  He is absolutely right! He chose this fight shortly after he was sworn in as mayor and all the choices he has made led up to this result.

Rahm keeps comparing our school system to those in Europe and other foreign countries, but he never goes on to explain that in many of these same countries he is espousing they look and treat their teachers as highly respectable citizens seeing as the teachers have the future of their country in their classrooms each and every day.  

Rahm stated that in some schools with the "longer, FULL day of school" they've implemented a 1/2 hour of one on one instruction.  I'd love to see that in action. Where are the other students at that time?  How many students a day get one on one instruction?  Throughout a 60 minute class, I give many students a few moments of one on one's called TEACHING.

The next few day will be very interesting, but for tonight I will leave you with the three R's:

READING: The Union has read the Board's latest proposal and is not satisfied (and NO it's not just about the money.)

WRITING:  Rahm began with the writing on the wall when he went down state to try and insure that the CTU can never strike again.

RAHM:  He asked for it, he got it...we're striking!


  This is my favorite sign of the day!  While on the picket line this morning, I must say the overwhelming response from parents and those people passing by in cars was very positive. The school I work at is a "scab" school or as CPS has coined it a contingency school, and I don't think there were 20 kids who were there.  It'll be interesting to see the spin the media puts on this tonight.  

 We did have a police presence.

 The parking lots were blocked off.

And the turn out at our school was great!

It's sad that negotiations have been going on for over 10 months and CPS only started to take things seriously the week before the strike deadline.  And one "concession" that the Union won was to guarantee that textbooks be at the schools on the first day so teachers can start to teach.  Wow! That took 10 months to agree upon.  It seems like a no-brainer, but actually gives a bit of insight into what teacher are up against.  

On a separate blog I will talk about the evaluation reform but will just say now that since the proposed plan is such a mess, CPS would be smart to just eliminate the whole thing from the contract proposal.  I bet this strike could be settled much sooner.  Way back in March, 16 universities wrote a letter to Rahm, Jean-Claude, and the School Board blasting their proposed evaluation plan.  Maybe they didn't read it, but you can read it here.  

We'll see what kind of "choice" Rahm and his team makes by the end of tonight.

Friday, September 7, 2012

CPS Guide on how to babysit students when you are not really a teacher. Laugh or cry? You be the judge!

Sometimes blogs just write themselves and this might be one of those times...

A couple of colleagues of mine shared this Sun-Times article with me.  I usually do not just "cut and paste" news articles, but this one seems too good to pass up.  I, of course, will interject where I see fit. My comments are made in red.  

 If this weren't so sad, this would be hysterically funny!

CPS’s How To Guide for workers at strike contingency schools

A guide to manning Chicago strike-contingency schools released Friday advises non-teachers to bring their own food, carry a watch because their classroom may not have a clock, and load up on 30 sharpened pencils and a pencil sharpener.  [Welcome to the life of a teacher...and this is just the beginning.}

In one tip, non-teachers are told that when they “correct’’ a student, they should do so in a “15 second one-way communication,’’ delivered within 3 to 4 feet of the student, but to “move away from the student 1-2 seconds before finishing."  [What could possibly be the reason for this?  Could CPS students be dangerous, disrespectful, scary at times? OR does it take a trained professional to deal with young people of various ages with hormones raging through their bodies?!]

“If you don’t you may invite a negative response,’’ according to the “Children First Site — Student Supervisor Toolkit.” [Of course if you say or do something the children do not like you might possibly get a negative response.  Welcome to the "REAL WORLD".  Welcome to being a "RESPONSIBLE ADULT".  We've been in school one week and I've had a few students already display faces with a "negative response"...obviously, I am doing my job.  It's just like being a may not always be fun, but if you are doing what is BEST for the child, you have nothing to worry about.]

Chicago Teachers Union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin Friday tore into Chicago Public School proposal to man 144 schools in the event of a strike with non-teachers, saying the “Children First” plan amounted to “a train wreck.” [This sounds accurate!]

The Chicago Public Schools have asked teachers not to picket at the 144 schools for the sake of the children, a request flatly rejected by CTU President Karen Lewis.
She told the school officials if they don’t want picket lines at those schools, then don’t open them. [This is just hilarious.  If CPS is so worried about "the children" they would not have just willy-nilly deemed a longer school day, but they would have made it a better most schools that has NOT happened.]

Gadlin Friday released the “tool-kit” that she said was being given to non-teachers CPS hoped to use to watch children at what Gadlin called “holding centers.’’ She likened the tool-kit to a “how-to-be-a-teacher strike guide.’’  [Holding Centers??? Sounds like Holding Cells]

Among its suggestions on “how to prepare:”

• “Wear a watch — your room may not have a functioning clock.’’  [If a teacher said this, they would be considered a nag and cry-baby, but now it seems to be important.]

• Dress comfortably as “many schools are NOT air-conditioned.’’ [ Many Track E schools have been sweltering since mid-August with no air and since Tuesday most Regular track schools have been sweatin' for 7 straight hours a day...but since so many schools do not have functioning clocks, maybe they didn't realize how miserable it's been.]

• “You will need to bring your own breakfast and lunch. Please note that you cannot rely on access to refrigerators or microwaves.’’ [I almost have tears in my eyes from the laughter. No one ever considers if the teachers have access to these things and we work a "full school day".  Now, personnel will be in the building for 4 hours and their eating habits seem to be top priority.]

• “Keep personal items to a minimum.’’ [Things that make you go, "hmmmm???? I wonder why this it?]

• Sessions for kids run from 8:30 to 12:30 but “you should arrive as early as possible” and be prepared to stay late. [Really??? You should be expected to come early and stay late?  I wonder if they get paid for such duties.  Teachers are expected to do that daily with no thought to their own personal time or compensation.]

• Bring 30 sharpened pencils, 30 pens and a personal pencil sharpener. [No supplies at the school??? You're kidding, right...NOT!]

• Bring “stickers or other small inexpensive incentive items.’’ [Digging into your own pocket for school items...Stickers are an easy one (and quite inexpensive).  Now let's make a list of the hundreds of dollars teachers spend each year "out of pocket" for their students and classrooms.]

• Bring old magazines and newspapers, puzzles and games. [No books in class, not enough do you keep 30 children on task without them getting into trouble?  It should be easy, right??? Teachers do it EVERY DAY!]

Non-teachers are given a long list of things to do ahead of time to prepare. They should: study and “internalize’’ recommended classroom management techniques; determine their classroom procedures and “practice explaining them,’’ create a Day One sample schedule, write a supply list and collect it, and “attend trainings.’’ [I thought anyone could be a teacher?  This almost makes it sound like a job that takes training and skills, education and experience??? ]

To “create a climate of respect,’’ the tool-kit recommends that non-teachers “communicate with words” and “do not yell, threaten or insult, even if joking.’’ [This is a learned skill in and of itself.  The rapport you have with your students is very important.  Notice I said "your" students.  These non-teachers are going to be looked upon as just that...non-teachers...they have no connection, commitment, or real investment in these children.]

And to make students feel comfortable, they should appear “confident and calm by being firm but friendly. You can accomplish this by writing a general schedule on the board.’’ [This is a good one. You can appear "firm but friendly" by writing a schedule on the board. If only teaching was that easy. It's not like the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams,  "if you build it, they will come"..."if you write it, they will do it"...that is just naive!]

For third- through eighth-graders, non-teachers are urged to walk students in two single files in the classroom, and “greet each student with a smile and a handshake as they enter.’’
As a “get-to-know-you” game, non-teachers are advised to model a “two truths and a lie’’ game, in which participants share three facts about themselves and students have to guess which one is a lie.   
Games to be played during physical education include Simon Says, Farmer in the Dell, Mother May I and Four Corners. [I wish I could be inside to see this take place.  I'd love to see people from Central Office playing Mother May I with 13 year olds.]

Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard has said that Children First sites will be manned by principals, assistant principals, Central Office Staff and non-CTU employees, as well as yet-to-be-approved vendors.

Officials with the Service Employees International Union that provide custodians, school bus aides and security staff have said they will honor their contract and could work, if asked.

[If there is a strike and this plan has to actually be implemented, in the least it should be worth a good laugh, at best...maybe, just maybe... the powers that be will gain some respect for teachers that do this job every single day.]

Copyright © 2012 — Sun-Times Media, LLC

Sunday, September 2, 2012

More Fraud and Waste at CPS (Updated)

On the brink of the first strike in the Chicago Public Schools in 25 years, CPS continues to show why we are in such dire straights.  Here are just two of the latest examples.

Note: Every time you see the word "free", please insert "your hard-earned tax dollars".

Last year Universal Breakfast was instituted in the Chicago Public Schools. Every student ate for "free".  Breakfast was moved from before the school day to within the school day which takes away instructional minutes.  This year certain CPS schools will not only get "free" Universal Breakfast but also 100% "free" lunch.  Out goes the full-price and reduce-priced lunches.  Now, in those schools, the only people who will have to pay if they want to eat the school lunch are the teachers.  I don't know many teachers who opt to eat the school fare, but if they do it will cost $3.50.  Now, I don't begrudge anyone a meal if they need one, but the same people who come to school with Flamin' Hots and Pop can certainly afford the 40 cent reduced lunch fee or the full price cost.

The second example also has to do with school lunches.  Thanks to Michelle Obama all schools will have to start serving "healthier food".  Notice I said serving and not offering.  It is a "MUST" that all children have a fruit and vegetable put in their lunch bag. (Why  a lunch bag is needed when there are lunch trays is beyond me.  I'd like to know who has the lunch bag contract with CPS. They are certainly winners in this scam.)  Since the powers-that-be know many students will not eat those "free" healthier foods...they set up a grand scheme. 

Try to follow this logic...

Step 1: Student must take bag with fruit in it.
Step 2: Student makes face and will not eat fruit.
Step 3: Student will handle that fruit while being able to return it to be reused.
Step 4: An adult employee (I'm guessing someone from the lunchroom staff) will re-wash the fruit.  (Re-wash with what? I was not told.  Who has that contract?)
Step 5: Fruit will then be placed at the school's EXITs so the same students who didn't want the fruit at lunch can now take it home with them. 

Now, I guess the students may really want a "fruit pick-me-up" at the end of the day, but other visions pop in my head.  It's the end of the day, and the students are handed a legally-issued projectile to throw at other students, or cars or houses.  It will be interesting.

Why don't they just use the fruit for the next morning's "free" Universal Breakfast?  

Why don't parents feed their own children?

I would love to calculate how much of YOUR money is being used to issue and re-issue fruit?

I can't believe I forgot to put this in my original post.  In previous years, students were given a lunch card and on it was a code identifying if the student paid full price, reduced price, or received a "free" lunch.  Since all students in certain schools will be eating a "free" lunch, common sense dictates that in those schools lunch cards will no longer be needed.  But, since common sense doesn't dictate policy, the students will still be issued a lunch card and MUST turn it in each day.  In the age of recycling and  saving the planet what a waste of paper and plastic (laminating costs),  not to mention time and money.

Just remember, we have no money to pay teachers, firemen, and policemen, but we have enough money for this dog and pony show.

A waste of tax-payer money???  You be the judge.

Special Note: I have finally figured out how people can add comments anonymously, so if you are so inclined to leave a comment but not your name you can now do so.