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Archive for the ‘Teachers’ Category

By Louis Kampf

“Do you miss teaching?” That’s what people ask, almost invariably, when they hear that I’m retired. This has been going on since I quit 15 years ago at age 67.

Usually I hesitate before responding. Why the hesitation?

I enjoyed teaching, and was very good at it. That sounds immodest, but I assure the reader that it’s true. Former students still write that the courses I taught strongly influenced, in a positive way, the direction of their lives. Of course, this makes me feel good. Yet I retired voluntarily at an age when I was still learning, still getting excellent evaluations, looking forward to meeting my classes.

Why? For one thing I discovered that my pension would be larger than the salary I was collecting at the time. Less crass, I considered that old age was creeping up on me. I did not want to spend another minute, hour, day of my life sitting through a boring and inane department or committee meeting. That’s too mildly put. The crap being parsed with exquisite logic and illogic numbed my senses. “What am I doing here?” I kept asking myself. Is this the life-affirming vocation I have chosen? Others must know the feeling. Yet the teaching was not ruined by these sour feelings.

So I hesitate before responding to the question at the top. “NO,” firmly put, is my answer. “Not at all?” most people ask. “No, not at all.”

I wonder whether anyone believes me. Surely, I must be masking my real feelings. Perhaps. I haven’t seen a shrink about it. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not kidding myself.

If anyone reads this, especially  retired teachers, what are your thoughts? There are probably studies in the works about these matters. Meanwhile, let’s start our own study (support group?) on this blog page.

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By Sarah Roberts

To my out-of-state and international friends who want to know what to do: I recommend you do your own phone banking or mass emailing event. With a little review online you can find out the names/numbers of Wisconsin state GOP senators and Assembly reps who are supporting this bill. You can also find out which ones are in danger of recall.

Then, you can have your callers explain to the legislator’ staffers on phone or in email that you consider the Wisconsin state line a PICKET LINE. No more dollars into Wisconsin. No more purchasing of Wisconsin products. Publicity ALL OVER YOUR LOCAL AREA (issue a press release) of what you’re doing. This is my advice here.

I can try to get more info regarding names and numbers, or if someone has a cheat sheet, please let me know.  You can start with this list from the Daily Kos:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/19/947160/-Recall-Wisconsin-Republican-Senators

And use lookup info from: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/contact/EmailDirectory.aspx?house=senate

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/w3asp/contact/EmailDirectory.aspx?house=assembly

Hopper, in particular, is vulnerable, having won by only 163 votes, in 2008. In addition, you can get information about the unbelievable provisions of SB 11, including:

– the privatization of state-owned power plants, to be sold on a no-bid basis to whomever the state decides

– the rejection of MILLIONS of federal dollars for public transit, due to contingencies around collective bargaining for employees, that will SHUT MUNICIPAL BUSES DOWN, stranding thousands upon thousands who rely on bus travel to work every day

– the decimation of state heath care funding for those who have no other heath care

These are just a few of the other items not receiving as much coverage, but worthy of immediate action and mention.

Finally, in other quarters, Walker’s appointees are rejecting millions from the federal government for state broadband service, intending to funnel state money to Walker campaign donor AT&T:

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/education/local_schools/article_28c5e5c6-3882-11e0-8bd0-001cc4c03286.html

Please mention any or all of these issues in your communications with Wisconsin state legislators.  Thank you.

Would you like to donate some funds to a clearinghouse group coordinating efforts on the ground? Visit: http://www.defendwisconsin.org/

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By Sarah Roberts

As I write to you from inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, the jubilant cacophony of tens of thousands of peaceful protesters both inside and surrounding the building is echoing off the walls.  People have arrived on this Saturday from all over the state of Wisconsin – firefighters from Eau Claire and Green Bay, teachers from every corner of the state, steelworkers, iron workers, municipal workers, police, teamsters, nurses, graduate students, and their friends and families.  Solidarity caravans of people have come from Illinois, Washington state, Iowa and elsewhere to support the people. All have descended upon the state capital of Madison to defend the rights of working people to organize and bargain on their own behalf – not just in Wisconsin, but across the country and across the world.  The showing it Madison is the civics lesson you had in elementary school in action.  As the chant refrain goes, “This _is_ what democracy looks like!”

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As a critically queer librarian in a vibrantly gay urban setting, out and proud for as long as I can remember, I sometimes forget how important simple acts of recognition can be. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project is a poignant reminder, and a wonderful opportunity for GLBTQ adults to send messages to young people struggling with issues of sexuality and identity. By recording simple videos and uploading them to YouTube, folks living happy gay adult lives can tell young gay people–whose suicide rates are shockingly higher than among their straight peers–that life really does get better.


A pair of teachers has recorded a video that is a difficult but moving reminder that teachers are often unable to live openly and honestly without enormous personal risk. Life gets better, but it’s also still hard. Wearing bandanas that cover their faces and telling their stories with words printed on the page rather than with voices that might give them away, they assure students that gay teachers do exist despite their occasional silence. “We will work to protect you,” they say, even if that protection sometimes happens under cover. “Trust your instincts.” Acknowledging the often-silent links between GLBTQ teachers and their GLBTQ students, the video also points to the work we still need to do together to make a world where all of us are welcome.

–Emily Drabinski, Brooklyn, NY

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to spend $3 billion in the next few years on K-12 education.  It had assets of over $30 billion at the end of last year, and presumably a lot more where that came from–Bill Gates’ bank account.  Warren Buffet, his fellow trustee, is the second richest man in the US.  Maybe their visible hands can feed our struggling schools just the diet they need.

Or maybe not.  The July 10 cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek (“Bill Gates’ School Crusade”) notes that the Foundation spent “hundreds of millions of dollars” starting in 2000 “to revitalize schools by making them smaller, only to discover that student body size has little effect on achievement.”  (See Picturing the Uncertain World, 2009, by Howard Wainer, a Wharton School statistician.)  With confidence undiminished by this error, the Gates Foundation now commits $290 million to a well-publicized, model program in Tampa, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, based on the “emerging consensus” that “quality of teaching affects student performance.”  While the veteran reader is sleepily nodding his or her head at the obvious truth, the Bloomberg sentence goes on, “and that increasing achievement is as simple as removing bad teachers, identifying good ones, and rewarding them with more money.”

It doesn’t sound simple to me.  Let’s leave aside important specific questions that research is just beginning to address, such as whether this year’s leading “good” teachers, by the measure of improvement in students’ test scores, will remain on top of the “good” pile next year (the answer seems to be no, according to a Florida study reported in this article).  Leave aside all the less-than-super teachers, down to and including the “bad” ones, who might actually learn to teach better, with a little help from their colleagues.  Leave aside the matter of whether tests exist that might tell administrators which bad art teachers to fired along with the bad math teachers.  Leave aside the uncertainty that should trouble fans of No Child Left Behind, and most other ed reformers of the last decade:  what evidence is there that test-driven schooling makes for good education?  Leave aside the even more critical question, “what is schooling for?”–to which Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, and almost all of our power brokers reply in unison:  it’s for training workers and improving US competitiveness in the global economy.  That simple?

No matter.  The Gates Foundation can bet a few hundred million here and a few hundred there on educational clichés or new ideas.  Its efforts may fail again, or they may change how US schools teach kids–but either way, without doing research, without talking to teachers, without being elected by citizens to change our society.  Where do they get this right?  From making and keeping large sums of money.  From scarfing up the social surplus and using it to mold the future of the world. This is a bad idea, whether the hand feeding us belongs to the liberal Gates or to one of the more numerous right-wing billionaires.

It’s a bad idea for there to be rich people.  It’s especially bad to let them use their wealth for what they consider the general welfare.  I wish progressive teachers were teaching, whenever possible, about the harm that private wealth does, and about how to bite the rich.
–Richard Ohmann

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At the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Convention last week (July 7-11) in Seattle a resolution was passed that called for unionizing charter schools into already existing AFT locals (not separate locals) and called for transparency in budget, student progress, funding, and corporate and private interests. Apparently the AFT already represents 140 charter schools. All of the Baltimore charter schools are unionized and in NYC the AFT runs several charter schools.

Many of us were alarmed by this resolution because of the apparent embrace of the AFT of charter schools with the resultant move to privatization. The strongest objections came from the teachers from Washington, DC, and Chicago. The DC teachers worried about the influence of the private corporations/entities that run their charter schools on collective bargaining. The Baltimore teachers had no hesitation.

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Good heavens, school teachers and principals are cheating–maybe 1% to 3% of them, nationally;  4% to 5% in Chicago.  So reports Trip Gabriel, in a front page New York Times story, “Pressed to Show Progress, Educators Tamper with Test Scores” (April 11, 2010).  For example:  a principal in Massachusetts told teachers to look over the shoulders of test-taking kids and point out wrong answers to them.  A principal in Virginia “pressured” teachers of struggling special ed students to put the correct answers to state reading test questions on an overhead projector.  In Georgia, the state board of education launched an investigation of 191 schools whose students’ test sheets showed evidence of tampering:  someone had erased wrong answers and penciled in correct answers.  In Houston, an assistant principal and three teachers resigned after a finding that they had peeked at the state science test, written a study guide based on correct answers to test questions, and distributed the guide to students.

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