Monday, September 16, 2013

Gen Y Yuppies and happiness

A friend of mine put on Facebook an article called "Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy."  It's from Wait but Why, a blog I've never read before, so I don't really know what the author's (or authors') angle is.  As a representative of Generation Y (as defined by this guy--I always thought I was a GenXer) who is generally pretty pleased with myself, I thought I'd see what the buzz is.

Without stealing the guy's thunder, he makes the generalization that a person's happiness is the difference between how they expect their life to go and how it actually goes.  The lives of people of my age or younger have turned out to be much more difficult than we expected them to be.  He places responsibility for this on our unrealistic expectations, caused by a ridiculously successful period with the Baby Boomers.  Also, we all think we're special.

I make it a point not to read the comments of non-education-themed blog, but I suspect I wouldn't have to go far down before somebody blames public schools for the destructive "I'm special" idea that everybody 35 and younger supposedly has.  "Can you believe they give ribbons to everybody at track and field day?"  "Everybody has to be recognized, so nobody gets any attention."  And so on.  I suspect strongly that this straw man I've chosen to attack would like the alternative even less.  The alternative is schools (public and otherwise) choosing who is special and who isn't.  And, honestly, if there's one thing we've demonstrated beyond any doubt, it's that we're no good at predicting who's going to be successful.  It's true that not everyone is "special," as the author defines it.  It's equally true that anybody could be, and it's not my job to tell someone they're not.

So I'll keep making sure that every kid in my room gets caught doing well once every two weeks and preparing them as best I can for a world that doesn't care how clever their memes are.

PD The blog in question is hosted on, which strongly suggests that the author himself is a Gen Y Yuppie.  For what it's worth.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wherein I try to write about everything, and it doesn't go so well

The beginning of the school year is off to a banging start.  I felt better prepared than I ever have.  As always, sequencing a curriculum is a marathon, but I feel like I've gotten a better start off the line than in previous years.  More interestingly, the path forward is pretty clear.  It's almost...too easy.  All it takes is a committment to do the work and the time to do it. 

Last year, I ran the after-school homework make-up program.  We're continuing that program this year, even though a number of important teachers on our crew are still dubious about its value in their own teaching.  The middle school teachers seem to be taking advantage of it, as are the language arts teachers.  We've made some changes this year to make the "mandatory" part of the assignment more mandatory.  If you don't come to an assigned ASAP, it's a day of in-school suspension, just like it would be if you skipped a detention.  That hasn't changed.  But this year, if you don't finish your work in the Tuesday session, you automatically go to the Thursday session.  If you don't finish your work in the Thursday session, you spend lunch and your non-core classes in the office on Friday.  We'll see how that goes. 

The big difference is that this year, I probably won't be running the program.  We have an exchange student who speaks very little English--so little English, it was difficult to explain that I want to help her.  Because I only have so many hours in a day to do things that are not my job, I have to pick between the two.  Exchange students are supposed to come to our country with a certain level of English language competence.  I don't think this girl has anything close to that.  The school isn't responsible for giving it to her, but I know what it's like to be far from home with no idea what the people around me are saying--and she is in a MUCH worse state than I was when I went to Spain.  So I'll see how much English I can cram down her throat in 2 hours a week.  In that time, we'll do some English language training and as much homework tutoring as I can give her.  This is not going to end well, but nobody will be able to say I didn't try.  Of course, maybe that's what she's thinking, too.

The political climate for educators has not gotten any worse for teachers in the last four months, but then, it's hard to imagine how it could have.  The legislature made some silly choices last session that are just now starting to pay out--making mandatory the Pledge of Allegiance, for example--but they haven't done anything to make things worse.  They won't fund Common Core implementation, so the biggest reform in education since NCLB (and probably since a lot longer before that) will have to be paid for out of schools' general funds.  It's a good thing teachers are grossly overpaid, because schools won't be able to afford raises for a long time.  The state appointed a board to pick a singe state-wide teacher evaluation tool.  I like their short list--the usual suspects appear, Danielson, Marzano, a few others I don't remember right now--but I have no faith that the system will be implemented with fidelity.  Most especially, I don't trust that the evaluations will be used to improve teacher practice, and not to "hold bad teachers accountable" (read: fire people the administrators don't like).  (As a sidebar: I've also had conversations with other crew members about a teacher-driven model of evaluation and training, but in the current environment, too many of them feel like they would be training their competitors.)  Well, also most especially, I don't trust that the state will adequately fund the training and implementation procedures.  

How's TPRS going?  Pretty well, all things considered.  I'm now good enough to know I wish I were better at it--I feel like I could be moving things along a little bit faster, if I knew how to keep things interesting.  I'm now answering questions on the listserv, instead of just asking them (or, more frequently, anxiously reading the answers of people who ask the questions I'm not smart enough to).  For the first time, I'm going to have a regular homework assignment, because I'm confident enough in my in-class assignments to worry about what the students are doing when I can't see them.  I've internalized the standards enough that I can incorporate them into a lesson nearly on the fly, and if my paperwork isn't all in order, it's actually well on its way. 

The school's PBiS program seems like it's off to a good beginning.  We had all of our lesson plans written, and from my observations, they went off pretty well.  The proof is in the pudding, though.  Everybody knows what they're expected to do; now we'll encourage them to do it.  We have some pretty exciting possibilities for prizes.  Last year nothing jelled.  Here's hoping this year it goes better.