Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Received an Award!

Many thanks to Eric over at Secondhand Thoughts
for awarding me with his Wednesday award where he spotlights various blogs. I sincerely appreciate the mention. Eric stated in his post he would like to see regular posting going on here at Best Practices. I would too!

There are certainly enough topics in education for me to be snarky about….and being snarky is one of the indulgences I allow myself now that I’m inching ever closer to the wonderful world of retirement.

Eric, I’ll try to do better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kid Nation/Sad Nation

I understand that reality television is now entrenched in American culture, but I don’t watch it. Believe it or not I don’t even watch American Idol. I don’t have to. It’s become so mainstream all I have to do is watch the news or listen to conversations around me to know who was voted off or who did what. Why waste time watching?

Kid Nation is the latest reality show offering to be seen shortly on CBS. I believe with any media craze there are lines of decorum and what is proper. I believe the production of Kid Nation has crossed that line.

There are several instances surrounding this Lord of the Flies redoux that don’t seem to be following best practices.

*I find it disturbing that a group of program creators sat around in a room brainstorming new programing ideas and decided it would be a great idea to take a deserted ghost town in the Santa Fe desert and drop 40 kids there simply to see what would happen. Let me repeat that……to simply see what would happen.

* I find it sad that people employed by various networks cannot come up with any type of creative programming other than shows that often humiliate participants and help to feed voyeur tendencies. Hollywood unions have also begun to charge reality television is merely a greedy ploy by production companies and media outlets to avoid expenses for storylines and scripts. In a recent AP article union officials charge that reality shows do have writers that should be compensated according to union guidelines and that some of the contestants/performers/participants could be covered under collective bargaining agreements. If charges like this is what it will take to finally end garbage television (not that it was that great to begin with) I’m all for it.

*It disturbs me greatly that parents signed away their rights including decisions regarding medical attention for the sum of $5,000. A New York Times article reported parents had agreed to allow their children to “do whatever they were told to do by the show’s producers, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or risk expulsion from the show.” Decisions regarding medical attention were left entirely up to CBS and producers. As a parent I find this fact appalling considering four children drank bleach. There had to be a cameraman around…..why didn’t someone stop them?

*I’m also disturbed that in order to film the episodes students had to miss several weeks of school including the month of April. That’s testing time in my neck of the woods, and in my district I believe those six weeks of absences would be unexcused. Oh, but wait. Silly Me! Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Parent----nevermind----- it’s ok because your child is going to be A STAR!

*Screen Actors Guild representatives became involved after complaints from parents, members, and former young performers who were “appalled at the way [the] kids [from the Kid Nation show] were treated.” After taking a look at the contract the Kid Nation parents signed the deputy national executive for SAG said, “it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such egregious provisions for any performer, let alone children.”

This article from September 5th discusses the contract parents signed a bit further. The lanuguage of the contract prevents parents from suing CBS even if their child died during the “inherently dangerous” shoot.

The article continues: The contract said that the show was “inherently dangerous” and could expose the minor children to “uncontrolled hazards and conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness or death.” In the first paragraph it reads, “By signing this Participant Agreement, I represent that I have read, understood and voluntarily agreed to abide by it’s terms and conditions and have explained to the Minor the contents and the meanings of this Participant Agreement to the Minor.”

Just in case Junior didn’t grasp the legal ramifications explained to him, the contract posted at TheSmokingGun.com. goes on to say, “I acknowledge that by signing this Participant Agreement, I will be giving up certain legal rights on behalf of myself and the Minor.” Parents also signed a clause that released liability in case of “emotional distress, illness, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, pregnancy and death.”

*A May article in Variety states: the goal for the children is to build a functional society. They have to pass laws, choose leaders, and build an economy. There are situations where children are given choices between things they need and things they want. The producer, Tom Forman, suggested real-world tasks such as preparing a group breakfast, doing hard physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. While many educators simulate economic situations in their classroom to teach the basics of economics, I wonder how many of my colleagues would still be teaching if we allowed even a modicum of the things we see presented in the show's trailer?

*There are no eliminations on the show and children can leave anytime they want, but a five pointed carrot is waved in front of participant’s faces. The ultimate gold star is given away in each episode…….it is worth $20,000. Even my very young students would understand how helpful that would be to family finances. Should this sort of pressure be placed on children twelve and younger? I don’t think so.

If mom and dad want to be reality tv stars and air their dirty laundry so be it, but it is a sad day in America when we allow children to be the focus of a “What if” experiment.

My policy of not watching reality television will continue.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Carnivals Are Open

The Georgia Carnival can be found at What a Concept!

The Education Carnival can be found History Is Elementary.

….and I find this appalling! One of the kids involved was 14. They were returning to school after the lunch hour with the things they were stealing including loaded guns.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Carnival Is Town!

The 136th Education Carnival can be found over at History Is Elementary.
Make sure you check out Elementaryhistoryteacher's other posts as well. I always learn something when I head over to her blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remember 9/11

Find out more regarding this progect at Brave Faces

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

13 Words of Advice Regarding Great Parent-Teacher Conferences

If August/September means it is back to school then conference time is just around the corner. Here in my neck of the woods progress reports come out this week. That means next week I’ll be receiving frantic phone calls and e-mails from parents wanting to meet with me.

This week’s 13 list centers on things parents would like teachers to know regarding having a great conference.

Parents say:

1. Please tell me at least 3 good things about my child’s behavior, character, or academic work before you launch into “the problem”.

2. I’m sorry I have to bring my child’s younger brothers and sisters. I know it’s distracting. Could you have a few picture books or puzzles out for little hands to stay busy with? I’ll try to remember to bring a favorite toy or snack such as raisins or Cheerios, but I might forget.

3. Can you have adult-sized chairs for us? I cannot concentrate or speak well if my knees are up around my ears, and I’m sure you can’t either.

4. It is ok to tell me you don’t know something when I ask a question, but please help me by hooking me up with a source or person that can help me.

5. I don’t want to appear rude by showing up and interrupting another parent’s conference. Could you close the door, and place a conference schedule outside your room? A chair might be nice as well so I can sit if I arrive early.

6. Please remember this is my child we are speaking about. I get a little emotional and sometimes irrational where he or she is concerned. That’s what parents do….sometimes.

Help me by staying calm, and lead me back to the focus of our conversation when I wander. The most important things I need to hear from you are:

*is my child attentive during lessons or off-task
*exactly where does my child stand academically in comparison to others in the class as well as nationally (show me the test scores)
*which areas does my child excel in
*tell me how my child gets along with others
*exactly how long should the homework take

7. Understand that sometimes it is simply not feasible for me to come in and have a face-to-face meeting. It does not always mean I don’t care. Be willing to have a phone conference with me.

8. If you feel my child has multiple problems please don’t overwhelm me with several items all at once. Choose one or two of the most pressing issues and let’s work on those first. Maybe the solutions for the major problems will help solve the other issues.

9. Please don’t speak in generalities such as, “You certainly have a sweet girl.” I know this. She’s my child. Tell me something specific such as, “You daughter consoled another student who was having a bad day. She’s so giving.”

10. Please check my child’s permanent record and invite the correct custodial parent. I’m sorry we have to confuse you with step-parents and grandparents. The connections are confusing and all the different names are confusing, but please make sure the custodial parent is called for conference so that we don’t cause any further family hostility or confusion.

11. Remember that I’m not a professional educator. Please don’t use professional language or abbreviations I know nothing about. I understand school environments have changed since I was in school, but I tend to relate my child’s school experience with my own. Also, if you want to discuss a problem my child might be having I can assist you better if you have a few suggestions for me.

12. Ask for my opinions. Remember to ask me if I have any concerns or questions.

13. If we discussed a problem and possible solutions please follow up with me in a few days to inquire if I am noticing a change and to let me know if you have seen a change.

Ok, all you parents out there head on over to the comments and tell me what you think.

In your conference experiences, what made a great conference and what caused them to fail?

I promise to pass along the good and the bad. :)

Thursday Thirteen rocks. Visit the hub to join in.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

High School Reform: One Parent's New Course List

I read something the other day that simply infuriated me.

Perhaps it was the fact I had received three separate notes from parents that morning wanting me to cut their precious baby some slack. One poor baby couldn’t complete ten math problems for homework because he had football practice. Another poor baby needed a seating change because she might learn more if she sits next to a particular student. Unfortunately, I am already aware that the particular student is now the little girl’s boyfriend since I had already confiscated one of those “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” notes the day before. The third parent was upset her poor baby had to wait until 11:30 for lunch when last year lunch was at 11:00.

I love meeting parents at the first of the year, but really...some go entirely too far.

What I read involved a blog post where the writer was posting certain high school courses they would add if they had control over upper level curriculum.

I know the blogger meant well, but as an educator the post really disturbed me.

The blogger was lamenting that schools don’t do enough to train kids for the real world. Then a list was presented of courses the blogger would like to see all high school seniors take such as:

1. Money: What a checkbook is, how to balance one, why credit cards are the enemy. Of all the things on the blogger’s list this is the one I can really agree with simply because it fits in with math and economics standards.

2. How to do laundry and clean your living area. What are we supposed to do? Build on a laundry room in every high school and purchase sorting bins for every student. I do see a great benefit of helping the kids with their laundry---mainly because I am so sick of smelling foul smelling clothes that are a result of sitting in someone’s washer for no telling how long before the adult in charge remembers to dry them.

3. How to cook a week’s worth of healthy food. While I am not a supporter of many of the menu choices I see in my school cafeteria (pizza served with mashed potatos) perhaps this would be a better class for parents in order to provide better choices than drive-thrus for dinner.

4. Auto care and maintenance or how to use public transportation. With regards to this suggestion and number 3 I do wish we would include more vocation type classes again in the curriculum. Like it or not we do have a segment of the student body who would benefit from these types of classes.

5. For women only: Your body, your cycle, your health, your pleasure. One section of the blogger’s explanation was someone should talk about masturbation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the responsibility of teaching “how” or “reasons why” to students. It’s not my place.

6. For men only---questions answered. The blogger stated, “I don’t know all the questions a boy has as he becomes a man, and I couldn’t dream of planning a course for it, but they should be allowed to ask them and be given the answers. See my response to number 5.

7. Money doesn’t grow on trees---how to get and keep a job. Apparently the blogger is upset at the cluelessness of 20-something coworkers. Someone should tell them they shouldn’t go out drinking on a work night. Someone should teach them how to dress at work. Heck, we can’t even get them to dress correctly for school even at the elementary level. Why would it make sense that we can teach them how to dress for the business world?

8. Manners---they matter. This course would cover thank you notes, chewing with your mouth closed, keeping elbows off the table, etc. The last time I told a student to get his elbows off the table during lunch I received a nasty note from the mom which led to a two hour meeting in the principal’s office. No thanks…..

9. Prince Charming is not coming to save you/what to do if you don’t marry rich----Schools need to teach this?

10. Health---When to stay home, when to call the doctor, when to go to the ER. Again, this might be a great seminar for parents. Children arrive throwing up, with high fevers, and with the full knowledge of the parent who sheepishly replies when called at 8:05 a.m., “Oh, I thought he’d get better.” In the meantime I have a sick, crying child on my hands, vomit all over the room and some of the other kids as well.

The last three are such mine fields I don’t think I need to comment. They are soooooo self-explanatory.

11. There are others in the world beside you

12. Your opinion matters----teach students to make decisions on their own not based on their parents opinions. Teach students to stand up for what they believe in.

13. Religion---God is too big to be just yours.

The comments to this post were equally infuriating. Here are just a few:
“Excellent list! I totally agree!”
“Wow…..I can’t even pick a favorite!”
“I’d send my kids to every single one”
“This list should be submitted somewhere for serious consideration for kids education!”
“I wholeheartedly agree. If the school system would listen we might get more competent adults.”

I would hope by now you might know where I’m headed with this.

Do you agree with me that the majority of the suggestions on the list are things parents should be teaching their children?

By middle school my children were sorting their own laundry and washing their clothes as well. They also had a bank account where their allowance was deposited.

Children learn not so much by what we tell them, but by what we show them. They learn to eat correctly, they learn correct manners, and they learn how to make competent decisions regarding their health and in other matters when they see their parents making competent decisions.

While it is important for educators to model certain behaviors for students it is not our job to parent them.

It really disturbs me that so many parents are willing to simply turn over their children to a school system with the thought that it is the school’s reponsibility to train a child to follow the correct path in all things.

When did it become my responsibility and the job of my colleagues to raise children?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day!

I thought this was interesting....instead of just adding Mexico I would also insert China, India, and any other country where American jobs have been outsourced.

Cheaper labor costs does not mean better, safer products.