May 31, 2009

No Better Than They Are

With one week of instruction and finals remaining, I've become no better than my students. Attendance rate have grown lower, homework completion rates virtually nonexistent, attention spans shorter, overall interest in mathematics dangerously low, Likewise, my interest in teaching has disappeared, patience thinner, overall interest in my students' math success dangerously low. We all look towards summer, and we count the days til June 11th. I can't allow this however, I can't. Must. Activate. Passion. Interest. Care. Now.

We need to finish the year strong.


And the last few days of instruction allow for straight talk, the type where teacher can be real with his students. I'd like to impart drops of knowledge I hope some will carry with them into the future. I want to explain why I've chosen to teach, what I hope for them, give 'em my advice, really let 'em know who I am and what I'm about before I bid them farewell when they leave my classroom for the last time. Cus there's no other time than now where I can do that. I maintain my mysteriousness for the majority of the year, only allowing kids to see certain sides of me. It's become part of my teacher creed. Can't share too much of myself otherwise they might take advantage of me. But sharing my story to students contributes to their overall growth the same way everything else does. I want my students to understand I'm more than just a teacher; likewise, they're more than just students. There's a time for play and a time for work. In the classroom, I've held my own & they've held theirs. They should know people juggle lives within one life on the regular just like they do. Even their teachers. Even this teacher.


I realize these are mindless meanderings. I do know one thing for sure, I've failed on the blogging front these past few months - a front where I reflect and grow as a teacher more than anywhere else (dy/dan captures this thought here). I intend to get as much reflection in these final 9 days of school, regardless of how incoherent or disconnected the posts may be. Gotta start somewhere.

May 21, 2009

Bad Times

This piece was taken from Inside Higher Ed:

California Calamity
May 21, 2009

For community colleges in the Golden State, things have gone from worse to worst.

The state’s 110 two-year institutions will lose about $825 million in funding over the next 13 months, said Scott Lay, president of the Community College League of California. He added that, of this large cut, $200 million will be trimmed in the next 45 days. This drastic funding cut comes thanks to the defeat of a series of budget proposals , on the ballot of Tuesday’s special election , which would have minimized cuts to public higher education and other state agencies.

“The last time community colleges saw funding like this was in 1982, before the Internet, the Americans With Disabilities Act and other costly measures,” Lay said.

Per-student funding will be reduced by around 11 percent, he said, forcing colleges around the state to turn away nearly 250,000 students in the coming year. Lay also noted that a “large number” of full- and part-time faculty members will be laid off because of these state cuts. Though he did not make an estimate for full-time faculty, he said he anticipated nearly 6,000 part-time faculty members will lose their jobs.

In one community college district struggling to plan Wednesday, there is hope that faculty layoffs may be avoided. Still, there is every expectation that courses will be slashed and students turned away in large numbers.

Constance M. Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, said her district’s conservative budget approach has braced it for the worst of these state budget cuts and will protect current faculty. For instance, she noted that, unlike many other districts around the state, San Diego currently has no debt. Even still, her district will have to make some significant sacrifices in the coming year.

“One of our big-ticket reductions is being carried out through a hiring freeze,” Carroll said. “Our philosophy has been to bring our payroll down by attrition rather than layoff. So, about 117 positions are being defunded, and we expect to do the same amount next year. The worst thing you can do in any organization, especially in higher education, is to lay off people. It takes a whole generation of faculty and staff to recover. We’d rather take the most draconian measures possible to avoid laying off permanent staff.”

Most troubling of all for Carroll and other San Diego officials, these budget cuts will adversely affect the one constituency that they have been trying to shield throughout these tough economic times: students. Even before Tuesday’s vote, Carroll said, the district trimmed nearly 600 courses, despite a 10 percent jump in enrollment. As a result, about 8,000 students were left on waiting lists and did not get into any classes this year.

This summer, she continued, the district will cut about 200 courses; it will also have to cut somewhere between 400 and 600 more before the next academic year. As the state has capped the community college’s enrollment growth to 2 percent a year, Carroll estimated that nearly 9,000 students in her district will be left without any classes to take in the fall. While there are plenty of colleges that boast about how many students they reject, these numbers horrify educators at this district, who view the community college's mission as providing access to a diverse and often needy population.

“This is a horrendous period for time for us and a massive public policy failure for community colleges,” said Carroll, who strongly advocates that California change the way in which it funds two-year institutions.

Currently, California Community Colleges are entirely funded by state appropriations and tuition, which they are prohibited from raising. In many other states, community colleges may levy or ask voters to levy local property taxes to fund their operations. For these institutions, this third revenue stream often proves more fruitful than state appropriations. The recent budget crisis is California has stirred Carroll and others to push for the ability to seek alternative funding beyond state appropriation.

“If the state is not ready to fund community colleges, then they should release them to take the steps they need to obtain funding and serve the public,” Carroll said.

While faceless discussion of policy changes and strategic budget planning dominates at the district and state level, the intensely personal impact of these cuts can be felt on the ground among officials who deal with students daily.

“We have done everything possible to keep these budget cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but now we are out of options,” said Rita M. Cepeda, president of San Diego Mesa College. “By law, we are an open access institution. But students will come to our campus now and seek to be enrolled and there will be no courses for them to take.”

Courses once considered essential offerings, such as those in the core curriculum offered to students seeking transfer to four-year institutions, will be among those to have sections cut, Cepeda said. Additionally, she noted that some programs with a set of sequential courses will no longer offer certain courses every semester, as in years past. She said these scheduling changes will force many students to delay their progress toward graduation, potentially stranding many before they reach their goal.

“Whereas, at the policy level, the answers might be a little cleaner; at the college level, we cannot give up on trying to find more extraordinary ways to serve our students,” Cepeda said. “Our faculty and staff are seeking ways to do more with less. We’re asking, ‘Can you teach Saturday morning?’ and ‘Can you teach more students?’ Even students themselves are offering more resources to one another. Many are now sharing books, for example.”

Many students have come to Cepeda’s office in recent weeks, she said, bemoaning that the college is not offering the “one course that they need” at a time when they can take it. Cepeda said she can only encourage the students to “not give up” and hold on to finish their degrees.

“Some of these students cry,” Cepeda said. “Sometimes I have to almost hold it in myself. But, not one of them leave irate. They all leave saying, ‘I understand.’ It’s a resiliency they have. They’re amazing. I tell them that the financial picture may be dark right now, but the future isn’t.”

May 13, 2009

I've got a serious post coming up, I swear

This is still higher-ed related though. My love to all you ASU grads, it's just the DailyShow. No harm, no foul.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Arizona State Snubs Obama
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

May 11, 2009

Is hip hop poetry?

Yes and YES.

I never thought I'd be using Talib Kweli to teach my kids about rhyme, repetition and alliteration. But that's what I'm doing tomorrow, audio/video and all (my street in Harlem where I live is actually in his music video and so is the 1 train - the train the kids and I take every day to/from about text-to-self connections).

Excuse me for a second while I pat myself on the back for making this poetry unit something they're invested in and can connect with.

In the future, when you hear about a really popular hip hop/spoken word group called Young Fresh Kids, you should know that it all started in Room 100 in the Bronx in Ms. S' class.


May 8, 2009

Relax, it's the weekend

With our school's quality review coming up in 2 days and with my first round of graduate school finals coming up TOMORROW...

I just wanted to say...

thank [insert your God/spirit/non-god/etc. here] it's Friday.

If students only knew what their teachers did once the weekends come around, there would be a whole lot of, "Well if Mr./Ms ____ does it, I should be able to do it too!" Prevent unwonted debauchery. Keep your private life private.

Have a great weekend and happy Mother's day to all you lovely mothers out there!

My kids wrote odes to their moms on pale pink paper which they proceeded to cut into shapes mothers would love (e.g. hearts, stars, butterflies and flowers). I NEVER in my wildest dreams could have imagined that I'd ever be doing one of these cheesy holiday "I love Mom" activities in a room with 27 11-year old kids. But today, I was that teacher. I was Ms. Honey. And you know what? It felt really cute.