Education

All posts tagged Education

One Slice of My Life – Entry 6

Published April 19, 2014 by Vida Caramela

IMG_0227It’s been about two months since I wrote about the incident with the “mean girls” at my job, and how I planned to file a formal complaint about them. Well. I wrote a letter to my union, sharing with them what had occurred and requesting their assistance in handling the matter. I shared the letter with my supervisor, the “big shark”, who assured me, “don’t worry about it”.  I have to tell you the truth, I thought that they were going to retaliate, and that it would get ugly. I was advised by my union rep. not to say anything to any of them. and I didn’t.  I admit, I was paranoid at first. I thought for a minute, that they were giving me the cold shoulder when I entered the building, but by the end of the second week, it was just a pleasant “Good Morning”, and that’s all. Now, it’s even more collegial than that. It’s quite a lengthy story, but I think it’s worth the telling.

I had to stand my ground once again. This time with a couple of fathers who did not like the grades that their children got on their report cards. This one father wrote me an email that was clearly intended to intimidate me into changing his daughter’s grade. I don’t think you can truly understand unless I share a bit of it with you, so here goes (the names and dates have been changed to protect the guilty. he, he):

Dear Ms. Caramela:

        How come 93 + 101 + 95 + 95 + all completed assignments, homework and participations = 60??????????
        There is something very wrong with what you are doing to my daughter. If my daughter report is not corrected and given to her tomorrow, I will not only come that School X and make a scene, I’ll report this on going issues to the Board of Ed and all the media outlets that I have connection with, including 1010Wins, New York Post and the likes.

        You are failing my daugher and I know it’s all you this marking period as I know every single one of my daugher’s grades.

        If necessary, I’ll take an attorney and file a case against School X if this is not corrected tomorrow, March 20, 2014.

        VERY DISAPPOINTED OF YOU AND SCHOOL X FOR LETTING YOU GET AWAY WITH THIS!!!!!
Enough!
Mr. Z

Here is my response:

        Dear Mr. Z,

        I shared your concerns with Mrs. Y, the head of guidance. She informed me that she was going to set up a meeting with you to discuss your concerns and to find a way to help Jane to improve her performance in her class. The strategies  that we have tried in the past have not resulted in any improvements. She continues to score well on exams, but she struggles with  meeting assignment deadlines, and she continues to exhibit a pattern of missing assignments. Please contact Mrs. Y to set up a  meeting. She can be reached at 555-555-2255, extention 5555 Thank you.

        Sincerely,
        V. Caramela, Teacher

Here is his response to my letter:

        THIS IS NOT JANE’S ISSUE! THIS IS YOUR ISSUE!
        You are not telling the truth!
        She gave all her assignments in on time and were there were not graded on time.
        DO NOT POINT THE FIGURE TO MY DAUGHTER!!!

        My daughter’s performance is execellent.
        If you do as much as to point the figure to my daugher on this, it will be a media mess for School X.
        I had enough of you FAILING my child.  YOUR JOB IS TO TEACH…

        I REALLY BELIEVE YOU HAVE TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE AND YOU FAIL KIDS BECAUSE YOU GET AWAY WITH IT.

        IT HAS TO STOP!!!

        I’LL REACH OUT TO THE MEDIA IF MY DAUGHTER REPORT CARD IS NOT CORRECTED TOMORROW!

I did not respond to him after that. Instead, I notified the administrators and gathered the necessary documentation. Well, he sent one more email after that, all in caps, basically saying that I had done the same thing to his daughter the previous marking period. The next day, he showed up at the school. The administrators spoke to him. They pretty much left me out of it. The head of guidance only asked me if I had all my records. When I assured her that I did, she said “Okay”, and that was all I heard about it until I was called to my supervisor’s office and asked to give an account of what had transpired. I told my supervisor what happened, and she said that she was going to set up a meeting. On the morning of the meeting, the parent emailed us to cancel the meeting because he was ill.

Anyway, back to the story of the “mean girls”. The day after I got the threatening emails, it was Open School night. (I always have about twice the number of parents waiting to see me than time will allow). At the end of the night, one of the mean girls came and reported to me that the scene outside my room was priceless. To this day, I don’t know what she meant by that. She said,” . . . but you were appreciated, I can tell you that”. I didn’t know what that meant either. Then the following day, open school day, a parent showed up demanding that I see him right away, even though other parents had been waiting the whole time to see me. He had come and gone a few times, each time forfeiting his place in the line (that’s the rule, and a sign was right over the sign-in sheet as a reminder). He threatened to go to my supervisor. I told him he could, and asked him to set up a private appointment with me and guidance. He yelled, “No, I’m going to see you today!” Well, he waited until the last parent had left, and he came back. Technically, the conference time was over, but I saw him anyway. He made all kinds of accusations at the meeting, ranging from me giving a quiz on a day of the week when it was not best for his son because of domestic issues, to me only calling him when his son misbehaves, to his latest suspicion that I must be losing his son’s homework (this excuse seems to be the preferred one, these days, over the dog ate it). So, I calmly reminded him that we had spoken on several prior occasions about his child’s academic performance, and that I had informed him that his child was not turning in his assignments regularly, and that he was scoring low on tests no matter what day of the week it was. He continued to badger me, and I stayed firm, confident, and resolute in my intention to settle the issue. The phone rang while we were at it, and I did not answer. Well, it turns out that one of the mean girls realized that something was going on when she saw another father pacing back and forth in front of my door. She had the office call upstairs and when I didn’t answer, and one of my coworkers reported  that the same parent who was in my room had tried to intimidate him earlier, they called the head of security who had gone home for the day, to come back and handle the matter.  I think they got concerned because the parent is a really large fellow (over 6’3″), and last year he was arrested during an altercation with his ex-wife in a pharmacy. I didn’t feel physically threatened by him, but he must have gotten to me emotionally, because the meeting had lasted almost an hour when the security agent came and put him out. I was completely drained.

After that day, it was not only a pleasant “good morning”, from my former tormentors, but it was conversations about not letting the parents get away with intimidation tactics, speaking up about it more, answering the phone in my room to let people know I’m okay, pressing charges on parents who threaten me, etc. It kind of makes me wonder if I’m being made a pawn in another battle that’s been waging between the parents and the administration. I sure hope that’s not it. I just find it difficult to believe that their  concern for me is genuine. (Kind of reminds me of the mean girls in the movie Carrie, acting all nice before they dump the pig’s blood on her head.)

It’s just really odd the way the behaviors have changed towards me so dramatically. Whatever I’ve asked of the “big shark”  lately, she’s granted, which is a complete 180 from her response to me last year. In a future post, I plan to tell all about the miracle that turned the tides for me. I can’t say for sure that this one event changed everything, but it certainly set the ball in motion, and I am grateful for each and every moment of peace that it has brought. No matter what, though, I will continue to pray for peace, prepare for battle, and persevere through whatever comes. That’s how I’m livin’.

The Teacher Zone – Episode 1

Published February 20, 2014 by Vida Caramela

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 5.04.02 PM

You’re traveling through another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a strange land whose boundaries are that of the U.S. Educational System. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Teacher Zone!

Picture with me if you will, one Mrs. D’Moralized, a modern-day educator, tasked with a host of duties required by her job.  She performs all of them with great efficiency. Her classroom runs like a well-oiled machine, students are meeting the standards, paperwork is submitted on time, parents are well informed; and Mrs. D. expects that her supervisor, Mrs. S. N. Fare will take notice.

Mrs. S. N. Fare ignores all of the visual evidence,  and without written documentation,  all of Mrs. D.’s hard work goes unrecognized. At the end of the school year, Mrs. D. is rated ineffective. The reason given, neglect of duty.

in the end the only duties that Mrs. D. truly neglected were the those to herself, and to her family.

This story is one with a sad little twist. The type that defies all logic and common sense. And it can be found here only —

in The Teacher Zone.

(Introduction was adapted from Rod Serling’s, The Twilight Zone, Season 2)

Authors Note: In 2013, NYC adopted a new teacher evaluation system called Advance, where 60% of the teachers rating is based on teacher performance (Teacher Practice), and 40% on student performance (Measures of Student Learning, MOSL). The 60% Teacher Practice rating is determined by the following: what the supervisor sees,  what the teacher submits as written evidence, and what the children write in the student survey (which counts for 5 of the 60 points).

Systems like this are being adopted all across the nation, and teachers are now facing a marked increase in the load of paperwork they must do in order to document their own performances. Often, personality conflicts, nepotism, agism, racism, bigotry, resentment, favoritism and other unrelated factors, blind supervisors and students to the true performance of the teacher. Coupled with the facts that student test scores do not always reflect a teachers performance,  and that teachers have not been given additional time to compile written evidence, this will most certainly result in some teachers receiving unfair ratings.

Standardized Testing Debate

Published August 6, 2013 by Vida Caramela
De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the nation, the lid is lifting off of a boiling-pot debate over high stakes standardized testing.  What started out as a relatively small argument in the academic community is turning out to be a bit of a hullabaloo. Increasingly, test-cheating scandals are being uncovered and widely publicized, as in the criminal indictment of 35 school officials and teachers in Atlanta, Georgia, and all parties are coming out swinging. The arguments involved are many, and with the recent introduction of the National Common Core Learning Standards, the new standardized tests that are based on these standards, and the new teacher evaluation systems that are partly determined by student scores, it seems there will be even more to come.

It’s going to be a while before the issues with standardized testing in the U.S. are resolved, but can we really afford to drag this matter out for very long? While the warring factions bicker on, the controversy grows ever greater, the pitfalls get even deeper, and generations of students are being affected. So, how do we fix this problem? The answer to the question varies depending on who you ask.

I’ll start with some of the views I’ve heard expressed by those appearing to be most vocal on the issue, or at least the one’s who have gotten the most news coverage, and hope you, my readers will help me to identify more for later blogs on the subject.

In one corner you GROUP #1:

The people calling for the elimination of high stakes or standardized testing. This group includes those that  believe that standardized tests are stacked against certain student populations and that these students can’t possibly pass them. It also includes those who argue that high-stakes testing causes people to cheat by promoting a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation. There are still others who identify these forms of testing as  disruptions to the educational process which limit a teacher’s creativity. The membership of this team are primarily made up of teachers, students, parents, and advocates for minority populations.

In another corner there is GROUP #2:

Those pushing for greater incentives for achieving high scores on standardized tests, or more punitive measures for those who have not made the grade. Proponents of incentives like No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, some government officials, educational reform groups and philanthropists fall into this category.

Then there is the partnership of GROUP #3:

The attack on public education and the bust the unions groups.  Several educational reformers, and politicians fall into this category as well. They often use the debate on testing as an opportunity to demonize teachers.  They say the teachers who cheated with their students’ scores did so, because they were bad people. They paint the average public school as a haven for lazy, ineffective, uncaring, and self serving teachers. They are all about firing teachers and closing public schools. The union busters take that argument further, explaining how badly we need to get rid of the Unions, which only exist to keep those bad teachers employed and failing schools open.

Now that I’ve started off the list, please feel free to add your comments, views, and/or solutions.

Below are some links to related articles: