Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Wall

Fresh from my Barnsey Ban (a.k.a. Are You Insane? We Don't Need Any More Books! or shouts that sounded vaguely something like that...), Mini Mimi and I headed straight for the air-conditioned love that is the Children's section. However, we stopped dead in our gift card toting tracks when we saw the back wall. The wall that had always been covered in shiny, delicious, new picture book titles. Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, Olivia, Click Clack Moo...so many of my favorite titles have spent time on that very wall. The wall that has tempted me with new titles, new authors, new ways to spend money...the same wall that strikes fear into Mr. Mimi's wallet heart. Today friends, that wall was covered on chapter books while the new picture books were relegated to a small stand off to the side.

Maybe this has been going on for some time, but please remember, I have been on a Barnsey Ban- perhaps a bit of a 12 step program to curb my little addiction. Regardless, WTF?!

Now, Mimi loves her a good chapter book. When I moved to teach second grade, I discovered some amaze balls new characters and re-discovered some old friends from the olden days when I was in school. (I'll have to tell tales of yore to the Mini someday...you know, "yore"? Also known as "before iPads and e readers"?) However, I worry.

I worry that in the craze to push their children to move forward, do better, score higher and get into Princeton, parents may abruptly abandon the picture book in favor of the chapter book. Remember this little rant? Sharing a picture book with the Mini brings me nothing but joy. Girlfriend may be just over a year, but she is full of opinions and in addition to hating chicken, she has stories that are her favorites, that make her laugh and smile. Going into classrooms and sharing a picture book with kids in first grade and kids in fifth grade is also high on the list of My Fave Things To Do (along with needing out, blogging and shoe shopping).

Although I still heart my Barnsey, I hope that this change is just a reflection of a need for a new look and not a sign of things to come.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No One Likes A Cheater...Although I Think No One Likes The Tests Either

This article was sent to me via email today.  In a nutshell, it discusses an investigation of the Atlanta public schools in which it was discovered there was rampant cheating on standardized tests.  They say at least 178 teachers and principals, most of whom have confessed, were involved in the cheating.  Here's a quote from the article, "A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in the district, which led to a conspiracy of silence, he said in a prepared statement. “There will be consequences,” Mr. Deal said."  (Mr. Deal is the governor of Atlanta.)  Consequences like dismissals and maybe criminal charges.  And, if I may be so bold as to make a bit of a prediction here, teacher bashing.  I mean, it's open season on us teachers lately, no?

Granted, these people should not have been cheating.  Cheating blows.  I hate cheating.  I hated dealing with cheating in my classroom.  All the long discussions about losing gracefully and being a good sport and blah blah blah...which I totally know is beneficial but really I just wanted to say, "Cheating is a waste of time and energy and it always catches up to you, so just go sit over there and stop playing if you're going to ruin our fun."  Whether it's little friends cheating at a math game to win, well, to win nothing, or adults cheating on standardized tests, I think we can all agree it's just wrong.

But just like I had to squelch my desire to simply stick cheaters off to the side and deal with the larger problem, so do these adults responsible for educating Atlanta's youth.  We can't just bash the teachers and the principals.  (Although clearly many are tempted to grab flaming torches and beat us when we're down.)  We have to look at the larger problem.  What about this culture of fear that has been created for adults working in schools?  What about this obsession with quantitative data and test scores and seemingly nothing else?  What about all the studies that negate the usefulness of this data when it is abused as we so love abusing it today?  What about all that? 

As I sit here typing this blog, I'm almost sick of myself for just engaging in this debate.  I am so sick of test scores.  I am so sick of the blame.  Most of all, I'm so sick of bitching about all of it.  (Okay, I secretly love bitching about many things, but even I have my limits.)  Instead of continuing to talk and talk and talk about test scores and graphs and standardized tests, why don't we just change the conversation?  Yes, I mean us, we, teachers, THE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY HAVE AN IMPACT ON CHILDREN EACH AND EVERY DAY...let's just change it.  Stop talking about the tests.  Yes, they exist.  Yes, they are being abused.  Yes, they are out of control.  So let's just move on and talk about something else like how we want our classrooms to be run, what we want our little friends to get out of their time with us, what we feel are the true purposes of school and how we can achieve those.

What do you think?  Easier said than done?  Has the pressure and fear consumed us all? 

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Meeting of the Minds (Now With Cocktails!)

A couple of months ago (when I was at the end of my doctoral time warp), a very exciting thing happened.  Something for which I was planning the perfect outfit for WEEKS.

Are you ready?

I met my internet BFF (and blogging sensation) in person.  IN PERSON!  That's right, Dr. Rebecca Branstetter of Notes From the School Psychologist and I (and her fabulous husband and Mini Mimi) had lunch together.  Face to face.

It was very east meets west.  Very Julie/Julia.  Very modern day Thelma and Louise minus the long drive and that bit at the end.  Long story short, it was very fabulous.

Friends, this woman is even more phenomenal in person.  PHE.  NOM.

Now, you may not know this about Mrs. Mimi, but I have a history of serious nerves before meeting education-related idols.   I mean, remember when I met Bryan Collier??  Can you say "stammering idiot"?  At the time, I probably couldn't, but now?  Um, yes.  Yes I was. 

Then there was the time I was invited to Diane Ravitch's book release soiree.  Okay.  Maybe "invited" is a strong word.  It was more like a friend of mine actually got an invitation and figured it would be kosher to sneak me in have me show up at the door with a big smile on my face.  Being fabulous, Ms. Ravitch was nothing short of lovely.  Me on the other hand?  Well, I was about a zillion months pregnant (complete with bloat-y face that some people refer to as a "glow") and wearing my only truly decent book-launch-party-with-your-idols-and-other-genius-people outfit.  (Read: sweating like I've never sweat in my life, like the ride in the elevator was not pleasantly temperature controlled but actually forty flights of stairs, like...well, like a pregnant person at a crowded party.  Ladies, am I right?)  Not only was I Sweaty VonPitstains, my friend and I were also The First Ones There.  Cut to me trying to sound intelligent as I gave the nutshell version of my dissertation that I had yet to perfect.  Not amazeballs, people, not amazeballs.  But again, Ms. Ravitch WAS amazing and shortly we were engaged in a very interesting conversation during which I kept thinking to myself, "Holy crap!  I am talking education with Diane Ravitch and a mocktail...how is this happening?!"  I won't even go into when she introduced me to Deborah Meier...let's just say I managed to hold my own...somehow. 

Should I have called, "nerd alert" before forcing you to read that last paragraph?  Perhaps. 

Anyhow, in true form, I was sweating like crazy (except this time it was that my-stroller-seems-enormous-in-New-York-City-restaurants-but-I'm-trying-to-seem-casual-with-all-my-baby-gear-and-heels) when I met Rebecca.  Of course, she ooohed and ahhhed over the Mini and we had some initial standard conversation.  And then.  AND THEN...let the education banter begin.  (I felt a bit sorry for her husband who could not have been nicer but probably was o.v.e.r. the school talk.)  Suddenly, it was like we had been brunching for years.  Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.  As I drove away, I felt really thankful for this blog, for my readers and the opportunity to make (and meet!) such special people like Rebecca. 

Who's Peeking?