Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adventures In Bacon Hunting – Part Deux

This one will really warm your heart. Really. I think any story of mine that includes the Bacon Hunter is one that is guaranteed to inspire you to do great things. Am I shoveling it fast enough? Are you sensing the sarcasm?

We have to do compile math portfolios for our students each year. Wait, perhaps we should come up with another name for these little tasks because in no way should you be picturing a wonderfully authentic assessment tool in your mind. You should really be imagining a binder filled with pre-determined, mandatory pieces that must be made up for each child even if he/she is absent for weeks at a time despite the fact that the Bacon Hunter is the ONLY OTHER PERSON who looks at these, besides me of course. Yes, from this point forward we will refer to these as Bonfire Material.

So the Bacon Hunter asked us to make sure that we had received the necessary Bonfire Material for each of our new students. If not, we were told we must hunt them down ourselves as she is too busy ordering breakfast. Ok, maybe she didn’t admit to her lazy morning habits quite so overtly, but believe me, that’s what she meant.

I realized that the deadline for having all your Bonfire Material collected was today (forgive me, it wasn’t the first thing on my mind) so I spent 20 minutes of lunch double checking everything. This is key…I did this on my LUNCH. Just like every other day when I choke down a sandwich or lukewarm leftovers as I frantically try to chip away at my to do list even though this is LUNCH. I don’t really mind…I know it comes with the territory, but then this happened…

After all my searching, I am pleased to discover that I only need two new binders to start collecting Bonfire Material for my new students. So I call the Bacon Hunter to let her know. I call. And I call. And I call again. Hmmm, four adults share that room…surely someone is there. I call again. And once more for good luck.

Me: Hi, it’s Mimi. Is the Bacon Hunter there?

Bacon Hunter’s partner in crime (read “lazy friend”): Um, yeah, but it’s lunch…can I take a message?

Me: What?

Bacon Hunter’s buddy: It’s lunch. We’re eating.

Me: (BLTs I presume) Oh. Have you been there the whole time?

Bacon Hunter’s buddy: Was that you calling over and over again?

Me: So you WERE there. (At this point I am fantasizing actually frying both of them like the bacon they love so much…you’ve been ignoring the phone that I MUST answer even if I’m in the middle of a freaking lesson?!?!?!?)

Me: Enjoy your lunch.

I am so glad we have the next two days off…I’m off to somewhere tropical. See you Monday!!!

6 comments:

Ruth said...

This is my first visit to your blog & I must say I'm laughing outloud. Wow -- you have a talent of making humor come alive in the midst of frustration. Enjoy your vacation. :)

17 (really 15) more years said...

Mimi- I swear your work in my school- lmao@ bacon hunter and "lazy friend". Sounds exactly like our math and literacy coaches.

amanda said...

If I didn't know better, I'd say bacon hunter sound suspiciously like one of our counselors. Hmmm...good luck!

Jen Barney said...

mimi- YOU ALWAYS make me laugh. I have read this at least three times and it's made my crap'o' day much better! THANKS!

17 (really 15) more years said...

I can't wait to read a new post- and how was your extended weekend getaway?

Anonymous said...

ew York City's schools need math experts - not zeroes

By ALFRED POSAMENTIER

Thursday, September 27th 2007, 4:00 AM


Be Our Guest

A young woman recently came into my office seeking advice. She said she was on sabbatical from the city's public school system and was looking for help in selecting some courses to take. I asked her what her professional interest was. She told me she was a math coach at a public middle school in New York City.

The obvious choices to offer her would be either a mathematics course or something in math education. She quickly rejected the idea of taking a math course - saying that would be too difficult for her.

I was taken aback; after all, wasn't she a math coach?

We then considered the other option: a mathematics education course. As we scanned the many options, she gravitated toward one that focused on technology enhancements to teaching math, saying enthusiastically, "I can certainly use this course, since I know nothing about technology."

After she left the office, I began to reflect on what had just transpired. Here the public schools have a math coach - whose sole responsibility is to help other math teachers do their jobs effectively - who herself shies away from math and doesn't know anything about technological applications to teaching. This, by itself, is very troubling.

What's even more disturbing is that there may be hundreds of coaches like her. You see, these past few years, the city's public schools have appointed and paid math coaches by the hundreds - about 500, primarily in elementary and middle schools. Ideally, all those coaches could be providing a terrific resource, especially since more than half of the city's math teachers have less than four years of teaching experience, and many have entered the system through alternative, fast-track certification programs.

But here's the rub. Neither the city nor the state has yet to implement any serious standards for deciding who gets to be called a "coach." Instead, the coaches are chosen by principals' discretion alone. As a result, professionals who travel all over the city telling our educators how to educate - and make good money doing it - could quite possibly be no better, and may even be worse, than the people they're charged with mentoring.

Would you appoint someone who doesn't understand the team's offense to be a quarterback coach? Would you promote a cop who's never walked the beat to sergeant? What, then, is wrong with our school system?

We at the City College of New York have been trying to grapple with this problem for four years, and have set up our own year-long training program for math coaches.

For entry, participants must have a proper mathematics background and must be recommended by their principals. We then work to improve their math knowledge and their teaching skills. But with limited resources (provided by the private sector), we've only managed to train some 200 coaches so far.

If my math is correct, even if every single one of the people we've trained is still working in our schools, that's still less than half of the coaches in the system. That means there could be hundreds of coaches without strong math knowledge - and no proven teaching skills - who are busy on the job, doing more harm than good.

It is long past time for the state and city departments of education to wake up to this major oversight - and put in place serious, rigorous standards that guarantee all math coaches are at the very least successful and knowledgeable teachers, and hopefully are proven to be exemplary ones.

Chancellor Joel Klein's good idea - providing special support for new and inexperienced teachers - should not be compromised by using unqualified personnel.

Posamentier, dean of CCNY's school of education, is author of the books "The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers" and "Math Wonders to Inspire Teachers and Students."

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