One of my favorite aspects of being a high school teacher is that I get to stay up to date with the latest in technology and pop culture. I would never know about “snap chatting” or what “ YOLO” stood for if it weren’t for my students. I acquired one of my favorite new expressions now popular among teens when I passed out a ten page packet for my students to read and one girl blurted out “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” She and other students would reliably make this grammatically incorrect declaration anytime I assigned any homework, especially if it involved reading. Being a mom of three kids under 5, this statement struck a cord with me and is turning into my personal motto. Allow me to show you how handy this phrase can turn out to be when dealing with the wonderful world of education these days.
- Thanks to a Bill Gates reform initiative, teachers at my school are now teaching an extra period for free. This is known as the 8 period schedule. We are required to teach 6 classes instead of 5 in exchange for two planning periods. Classes are 90 minutes and four classes meet on alternate days. This plan was originally sold to us as way to reduce class sizes. We were promised that our student load would remain at 150 and this would be a way to achieve small classes. It was also sold to us as a way to increase graduation rates because “We all know that the real reason students come to school is for electives.” This may be true if students were actually placed in elective classes they elected to be in, but counselors usually just throw students into whatever elective class happens to be available. I always thought being an elective teacher would be fantastic. Imagine teaching a class that students wanted to be in! That was until I taught an ethnic dance class one year with 70 students in it, only 20 of whom had any interest in dance. To my surprise the majority of the class were boys and I had envisioned myself teaching belly dance and flamenco. It was a fiasco and was mostly an exercise in crowd control. It was the last period of the day and I was in a room located in closest proximity to the “skipping” exit of the school. The classroom had two doors (horrible idea!) and I spent most of my time teaching glancing at the two doors in the back of the room trying to prevent students from sneaking out. With 70 students, I never did learn all of their names and couldn’t even write them up if they did manage to escape. The 8 period schedule never did achieve smaller class sizes but I usually ended up with a supplement and I could still have a planning period so I didn’t mind it too much. That was until the Florida Legislature in its infinite wisdom decided to declare Advanced Placement classes “electives” and exempt them from the class size amendment. Having the experience of being an “elective” teacher I knew this would be a disaster and you can read more about it in my class size matters blog post https://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/class-size-matters.
So now that I no longer had a 25 student cap and the 150 student load maximum also disappeared, the 8 period day made me and other elective teachers ripe for exploitation. Even if administrators showed some restraint and only assigned me 30 students per class, multiply that by 6 and you get 180 students with no right to a supplement. In an Advanced Placement history course, the result is another 30 essays to grade per week. Grading 30 essays equates to approximately an extra 5 hours of work for free. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
2. While most of the time I enjoy advances in technology, somehow Dade County has screwed up the electronic gradebook so bad that it is almost inoperable. Until this past year, the electronic gradebook functioned reasonably well and I had no complaints. Then the district decided to centralize the system and slowly it began to unravel. Every time grades were due the system would slow to a crawl and then crash. I gamed the system by finishing my grades a week early. The district would blame this glitch or that and promised they were working to resolve the issue. Then this past quarter the tech experts appeared to just give up and their solution was to physically disable teachers from accessing their grade verification reports during the school day. I have no idea what the point of a grade verification report is, but I know it is due at the end of every quarter and if you don’t turn them in by 10 am they will announce your name over the load speaker every 5 minutes and hunt you down like a truant student. So this last quarter, in order for teachers to print out their grade verification reports, the district tech wizards forced them to do so before school, after school or at home by shutting down the grade verification report option during the school day. Being a working mom who has to drop off her kids by 7:30 and pick them up by 3 pm, printing them outside of the school day was not an option. I don’t even have a printer at home. This one is for you incompetent Dade County tech experts who can’t do your job and think the solution is to force teachers to do theirs outside of normal working hours, AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
3. Ahh…the wonders of computer based testing. With the Common Core computer based assessments coming down the road by 2015 and current FCAT and EOC testing already being computer based, low and behold the district is finding out its servers are crashing. The district sent out this email from ITS in response:
“Multiple schools recently alerted Information Technology Services (ITS) of schoolwide internet interruptions. After investigating, ITS found the following was occurring at these sites:
- Students, unbeknownst to school administration or teachers, were found to be playing network based video games, such as Halo, on district computers.
- The students created what is known as a proxy server that allowed them to bypass the district’s current filtering technology.
- The students were able to perform these activities by bringing in their own software on removable devices (thumb drive or flash drive, etc). By using one of these devices, the software runs without being installed on the district computers thus bypassing all filtering protocols.
- The result of their actions caused significant bandwidth consumption; in all cases the affected schools lost ALL internet capabilities. Bandwidth is the allotted amount of space and size used for accessing the internet. When the bandwidth reaches capacity EVERY internet request slows down or is stopped completely.
- ITS is researching if there is any filtering product available that can prevent or lessen this type of interruption. However, any solution identified is not an immediate solution nor have funds been identified for purchase.
This issue is of significant concern as the district prepares for online testing (FCAT, etc). ANY interruption of network services to or from the school could result in an invalidation of the online test being taken!
- ITS is requesting that school administration and staff monitor ALL student activity when they are using district computers and, if possible, intervene when questionable activity is observed.
Hey ITS, once again you seem to be incapable of doing your job and are shifting your responsibilities onto teachers. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
3. Kafkateach has a horrible confession to make. Despite her many rants about education reform, she was until recently considering sending her daughter to a charter school next year. This is not because I felt the charter school would offer her a better education. I would have much rather sent her to my neighborhood public school. But for some reason the school Kafkateach is zoned for is a k-8 center and does not offer morning care. Kindergarten doesn’t start until 8:15 and I have to be at work by 7:15. My husband has a long commute and has to start work at 8:30. With no morning care, what’s a high school teacher mom to do? Why is there no morning care at my local elementary school? They have aftercare. There must be other parents that have to be at work by 8 a.m. and don’t have other options. Every elementary school in Dade County should be required to offer morning care. But they’re not and the only one I could find that did offer morning care was a charter school. So there, that’s my horrible confession. I justified it by viewing it as an opportunity to do some first hand investigative reporting about charter schools. What I found out so far is that charter schools require parents to volunteer at the school and if they happen to work during the day, they can buy supplies instead. Say what? They claim this is a way of building a school community but by forcing parents to either volunteer at the school or buy supplies they know damn well they will either be attracting the kind of families with enough wealth to have a stay at home parent or ones wealthy enough to buy their school’s supplies for them. And they know by attracting wealthier and more involved parents, they will be virtually guaranteeing themselves higher test scores. While I don’t mind the idea of volunteering at my child’s school or donating some supplies, I don’t appreciate being forced to volunteer 30 hours at my child’s school. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!
4.Last, with a newborn baby that wants to eat every two hours, a toddler who refuses to potty train and a four year old bringing home worksheet packets and science projects, writing this blog will probably happen less frequently. Unfortunately, Kafkateach ain’t got much time for that.