ASCD Wants You!

From the ASCD website:

Educational Leadership is doing an upcoming issue on Promoting Respectful Schools (September 2011). We’re looking for stories about creating respect among teachers and students. Selected responses will appear in the September issue.

Contributions need to be under 200 words…not much for such a worthy subject.

Here’s what I wrote (198 words):

Displayed on my classroom wall and in the window of my classroom door was a sign that said, “Respect Zone/Zona de Respeto.” I talked about this when I briefly introduced myself to a class.

After telling students who I am (and why I was there in the case of post-retirement substitute teaching), I explained “The Respect Zone” like this: “Unlike a lot of teachers you know, I only have one rule in my classroom. I respect you. You respect me. All the rest of the rules are in your student handbook.” Lots of surprised and attentive faces greeted that announcement.

 I further explained that The Respect Zone extended beyond the classroom…in fact, everywhere.

If a student disrespected a peer, or challenged me, I gently reminded them of The Respect Zone. Often other students offered verbal support for the idea of mutual respect, something we all crave.

If a student needed to pay more attention to mutual respect, I invited them into the hall for a private conference and explained that teaching is a difficult job and I can’t do it alone. “I need your help too,” I told them.  I usually made an ally that day.

Paring the subject down to 200 or less words required some thought. But here on my blog, I’m free to include all my rough draft thoughts on student-teacher respect...the key to effective classroom management and augmented student achievement.

Respect in the Classroom (rough draft)

As a middle school social studies teacher, and after retirement as an occasional secondary substitute, I would introduce students to the concept of “The Respect Zone.”

Prominently displayed on my classroom wall and in the window of my classroom door was a bilingual sign that said, “Respect Zone/Zona de Respeto.” Both as a regular teacher and as a substitute I would talk about this when I briefly introduced myself to a class.

Keys to The Respect Zone: After telling students who I am (and why I was there in the case of substitute teacher), to give them a connection to a fellow human being, I would explain The Respect Zone like this: “Unlike a lot of teachers you know, I only have one rule in my classroom. I respect you. You respect me. All the rest of the rules are in your student handbook.” I would further explain that The Respect Zone extended beyond the classroom…in fact everywhere.

If a student disrespected a peer or challenged me, I would gently remind them of The Respect Zone. Often other students would offer verbal support for the idea of mutual respect, something we all crave.

If a particular student acted out and needed to pay more attention to mutual respect, I would invite them into the hall for a private conference and explain that teaching is a difficult job and I can’t do it alone.” I need your help too,” I would tell them.  “Come on, let’s go back inside and make it work for everybody.” Besides avoiding a public confrontation, I usually made an ally out of the previously recalcitrant student because they felt the respect I was giving to them.

This isn’t a foolproof “fix” or system. It sometimes fails and I have had to issue a behavior referral, but I never averaged more than five referrals in a school year (and that included mandatory referrals for the occasional hallway fight I had to break up).

The Respect Zone requires a large degree of humility on the part of the teacher, which means, not being perfect myself, that if I ever spoke sharply to a student, I would apologize to them in front of the entire class. But encouraging respect in this fashion pays off for me because it results in more instructional time and less time devoted to behavioral intervention. And, did I mention, way less stress.

Not On the Test Revisited

NCLB (the federal No Child Left Behind law) makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!

Had To Share This…Intergovernmental Whatever

bedraggled2_465x405

I shouldn’t say that I feel like she looks, but “bedraggled” may be an apt description of her situation and mine, although I’m glad to say, I’m happily bedraggled (and not wet). Lots of good stuff to do and not enough time in which to do it. Know what I mean?

Short update on our regular board meeting of 25NOV2008: All action items passed unanimously.

Short comment on Susan Gordanier’s recent Argus article describing the combined City Council/HSD 1J Board of Directors meeting: Susan, in her zeal to make a big deal out of the Thomas Middle School demolition discussion (a non-existent “stalemate”), ignored a great agreement of the combined group of elected officials, namely that the “policy makers” (the Mayor’s term for councilors and board members) needed to encourage high-ranking administrators in both the city and the school district to meet on a regular basis to maximize our partnership for the benefit of the citizens of the City of Hillsboro and the patrons of the Hillsboro School District. These officials do meet and strategize, but not on a regular basis. That’s what I call “news,” but when a reporter is in the preconceptive mode, he/she can miss a lot of good stuff. That was the high point of the meeting, but the promise of benefits to citizens never made print.

The so-called “stalemate” on the issue of the demolition of JB Thomas Middle School was not a stalemate at all, but a denial on the part of the Mayor and two of his Councilors who are apparently willing to follow him. School board members endeavored to help the those city officials understand that regardless of how “feasible” they thought the Thomas site is/was for the City, it would never be feasible for the School District, hence our reluctance to waste taxpayer funds on a useless “feasibility study.”

The School District defends the needs of children. City officials, in their quest for control over the Thomas site, never mentioned children or the needs of the children.

In other news, I’ll be presenting two break-out sessions at the international Educational Testing Service 3rd Annual Conference on Sound Grading Practices (the last frontier in education reform) this Thursday and Friday in Portland. A good number of HSD administrators and teachers will be attending. See you all there!

Not On the Test

NCLB makes me grind my teeth for lots of reasons.

This very cool song pretty well sums them up…

Now go visit Tom Chapin’s web site, Not On the Test.

For those of you who want the lyrics, Tom generously published them on his other web site, tomchapin.com.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin
© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you’ll do just fine.
It’s reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don’t need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don’t get all stressed.
They’d never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they’re caught in a bind.
So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school ’cause they’re not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You’ll learn there’s a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you’re in Congress or talk radio,
Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
‘Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking’s important. It’s good to know how.
And someday you’ll learn to, but someday’s not now.
Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don’t think about thinking. It’s not on the test.

Thanks to Tom Brandt for hooking me up with the video!

Board Takes Official Position on Four Measures of Significance to Oregon Education

Oregon is the state of initiatives. I think Iowa was the first state to use popular influence to get measures on the ballot, but the initiative phenomenon became known long ago as The Oregon System.

To our embarrassment, The Oregon System has become a source of riches for Bill Sizemore, a convicted felon (thanks in large part to the Oregon Education Association) who has made a business of pimping initiatives and gathering signatures for whomever is willing to pay him. Sizemore was recently in the news for siphoning funds for personal use from a foundation he controls.

The three initiatives we oppose are Sizemore’s. Some of them, people here believe, are attempted revenge against teachers who belong to the union (OEA) that helped nail his pitiful butt to the judicial wall.

It’s not often that I can speak for the entire Board, but this is one of those times, because we voted this way in an official meeting that was attached to our work session on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Of the many measures that will appear on the November ballot (Oregon), four, in the opinion of the Hillsboro School District’s Board of Directors, merit not only our attention, but our active participation to defeat three of them, and pass the fourth.

The initiative we support is Measure 56, which calls for the restoration of the simple majority voting requirement.

The three we oppose are Measures 58 (prohibition of teaching public school students in language other than English for more than 1-2 years); 59 (proposing full federal income tax deductibility from Oregon tax liability); and 60 (creating a state-wide teacher merit pay mandate).

Here are our resolutions in measure numerical order:

Measure 56:

WHEREAS, the 2007 Oregon Legislature adopted HJR 15, which refers a constitutional amendment proposal to Oregon voters at the November 4, 2008 General Election that would modify a portion of the double-majority requirement, restoring simple majority voting; and

WHEREAS, under the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement, to get voter approval of a finance measure, 50 percent of all registered voters must vote, along with “50 percent plus one vote”, with the exception of General Elections in even-numbered years; and

WHEREAS, this requirement places more election power in the hands of citizens who do not vote, rather than those who have decided to exercise this right; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double-majority’ requirement has resulted in many jurisdictions crowding the even-numbered General Election ballots with many competing taxing interests; and

WHEREAS, the so-called ‘double majority’ requirement has resulted in the failure of several finance measures, despite the measures receiving a majority “yes” vote; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Legislature created a very workable compromise, restoring the simple majority voting requirement for local bond and levy measures on all November and May ballots;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors support the Oregon Legislature’s passage of HJR 15 to restore the simple majority voting requirement to all May and November elections.

Measure 58:

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 and its resulting ballot measure would establish a statewide policy that English is the “language of opportunity” and mandate that non-English speaking students shall be immersed in English so they can be mainstreamed as quickly as possible; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 58 proposes to place non-English speaking students in English immersion classes for state-specified, limited time periods based on grade level (a maximum of 1 year for K-4 students; 1.5 years for grades 5-8; and 2 years for grades 9-12); and

WHEREAS, current, district-specified courses being taught to assist non-English speaking students who are unable to benefit from classes taught in English would effectively be eliminated,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District Board of Directors strongly opposes Ballot Measure 58 because it severely reduces our authority and ability to meet the unique needs of our students w2ho must learn English – while also learning academic skills.

Measure 59:

WHEREAS, K-12 public education receives the majority of its funding through a direct appropriation from the state legislature in the form of the State School Fund, generally comprising over 40% of the total state general fund; and

WHEREAS, the state relies on personal income taxes for almost 90% of all state revenues, making public services, including public education, highly sensitive to any changes in personal income tax collections; and

WHEREAS, Ballot Measure 59 proposes to increase the amount of federal income taxes paid that can be deducted from an individual taxpayer’s Oregon taxable income from a limit of about $5,500 to the entire amount of federal taxes paid; and

WHEREAS, the changes proposed in Ballot Measure 59 are estimated by the Legislative Revenue Office to result in a $1.244 billion loss of state revenue in the 2009-11 biennium and a $2.268 billion reduction in the 2011-13 biennium; and

WHEREAS, such a dramatic reduction and instability in state revenues would likely result in a direct reduction in revenues for public education.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors strongly opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 59 and its efforts to destabilize and dramatically reduce revenues available for public services.

Measure 60:

WHEREAS, Measure 60 would impose a statewide mandate requiring all school districts to institute a new teacher compensation program without regard to the existing local collective bargaining process; and

WHEREAS, the measure lacks realistic and comprehensible definitions and clarifications that would enable local boards to thoroughly understand and effectively implement such a statewide mandate; and

WHEREAS, the measure would likely result in discouraging collaboration among teams of teachers in schools and instead foster competition for highest test scores; and

WHEREAS, said competition for high test scores would reduce the quality of Hillsboro’s education offerings because an emphasis on testing and testing rehearsal leaves less time for higher level curriculum exploration, and

WHEREAS, the official state fiscal impact committee has estimated that Measure 60 would require additional spending of between $30 million and $72 million statewide in the first year and between $30 million and $60 million statewide in subsequent years without raising additional revenues to compensate local districts.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors opposes the passage of Ballot Measure 60 and its effort to implement an unfunded statewide mandate overhauling the existing local teacher compensation system; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hillsboro School District 1J Board of Directors urges voters to oppose Ballot Measure 60, and that the Board of Directors will work to educate local voters about the negative impact this measure will have on the local control of public schools, employee relations with teachers, funding for the classroom, and, most importantly, the opportunity for students in the Hillsboro school district to enjoy the benefits of a world-class education.

If you got this far reading, let me know, cuz you deserve a high-five!

And think about it. Maybe pray for us here in Oregon. Not only do we have to cope with NCLB, but we have to deal with crooks like Sizemore and the dipsticks he represents! 😦

What Do We Do When We Want It So Badly For Them?

I think that The Science Goddess may really be a Muse. She’s inspired another couple of thoughts I want to get out here before they die of loneliness…

Late last night, Chris Lehmann posed the following idea on Twitter: Question on my mind: How can you demand that people to improve if you don’t improve the circumstances of their life / work / etc?

My response: Perhaps “demand” isn’t the right road? Perhaps we inspire or support or model?

CL: I agree completely. So why do we see so little of that in today’s educational landscape? Especially in urban settings?

SG: I think we do model another “reality,” but may be unwilling to accept that many are happy as they are.

If you’ve read her post, you may be feeling some frustration, a twinge of resentment, or even some outright hostility for the education system that seems not to be able to reach all students with the message that they can succeed in life (whatever the definition of success is) if they work hard and persist.

The fact is, most people, and that includes students, have their own agendas. Their desires and schedules for achievement of their personal goals may never be clear to us, but we can still do something important, and that is to, as The Science Goddess mentions above, inspire.

Before you comment about my apparent Pollyanna attitude, let me define “inspire.”

Science teachers know that grasshoppers have spiracles along their bodies. These openings play a big part in breathing for the grasshopper — like, that’s where the air gets into the organism.

The root of “spiracle” is the Latin spiro, a verb that means to breathe. (Can you see where I’m going with this?)

In Latin, the prefix “in” means “in” or “into.” Put the prefix “in” together with “spiro” and you get “inspiro,” to breathe into.

So if we cannot control, coerce, or command success for students, we can breathe into them our desire that they succeed by setting a truly professional example, by making available visions of possibilities, by teaching them well, assessing them accurately, and grading them fairly.

And most importantly, treating them as equals with the respect we’d give to our most revered elders. And that implies that we accept their decision about what to do with our inspiration. 😉

That’s what inspire means to me.

New Blog In Town

Reflecting on the Reflection of My Reflection

Notes From The School Psychologist
promises to fill a gap in our common pedagogical reflections. Rebecca Bell, Ph.D. blogs without a pseudonym, and offers insight and encouragement to us to see kids as vulnerable human beings who need our mentorship and caring rather than control and the always inequitable discipline that too many of us practice.

The world of a school psychologist is similar to a counselor’s and once or twice removed from a teacher’s, but all the reflections and anecdotes will enhance our vision of our profession.

Welcome to this little corner of the edublogosphere, Rebecca. I think you’ll find some folks you can talk to here.