Tag Archives: politics

Tag, You’re It #Betsy DeVos

Dear Mrs. DeVos,

We have a system in this country, and you’ve been confirmed as Secretary of Education because of how that system works. People voted for the president and their senators, and today, that means you now hold a position of great power in our country despite the overwhelming majority of people who asked their senators to vote no. That’s not how our system works, though, so you’re it.

It was obvious during the confirmation hearing that you hadn’t done your homework, Mrs. DeVos. That although you’ve spent years degrading public school systems and championing choice, you really did not know the essential foundations upon which public schools are built. You did not understand school law, nor did you understand basic educational practices. 

You no longer have the option to skip the homework, take the test and let the failing grade stand. A failing grade for you is disasterous for us. So hit the books. We need you to be good.

Now your real work starts. Important work. Essential work. Work that has absolutely nothing to do with your personal bank accounts and everything to do with one of the foundations of this country.

Your job is political, but it is more than that.

Years ago one of my favorite superintendents explained that he knew his strengths and made sure to surround himself with assistants who could shore up his weaknesses. I hope you will do this. Spend time with public school educators: administrators and teachers. Spend time in schools: failing schools and excelling schools. Look beyond test scores because test scores are a tiny portion of what we do.

You’ve had weeks since that disasterous confirmation hearing. Hopefully you’ve utilized that time effectively. 

Different points of view can lead to great successes. I hope we see that from you. Don’t let us down, Mrs. DeVos. Prove us wrong. Prove you are up to the job.

Sincerely,

Mary Beth Lee

Public School Teacher

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Why I Will March

I will never say #NotMyPresident.

I understand the sentiment but do not embrace it.

I won’t say it because Donald J Trump IS my President.

I am a citizen of this great nation, and as such, this nation and its President belong to me.
That is why I will march.

Because I must join the voices of others to say racism is not acceptable, misogyny is not acceptable, the war against public education is not acceptable, vulgarity is not acceptable, bullying those who disagree with you is not acceptable, defunding Planned Parenthood is not acceptable, calling the media dishonest because they write and say things you don’t agree with is not acceptable, treating others as less than is not acceptable.

I do not march against my President.

I march against the ugliness unleashed by his words. I march against those who have embraced his nationalist speech and added white supremacy. I march against the idea that separation of church and state is a suggestion not a constitutional mandate. I march because we sit on the brink of returning to the age of back alley butchers performing abortions.

I march for my Muslim friends. I march for those terrified that they will be sent back to Mexico because they gave the government their names when the Dream Act started. I march because climate change is real. I march because deregulation leads to corruption like the housing crisis where so many lost their homes. I march because I shouldn’t have to carry my birth certificate to use the bathroom. I march because creationism doesn’t belong in a science textbook. I march because facts are facts. So yes, I will march.

I will do so in peaceful protest against policy and speech, but I do not march against the man.

I march because the constitution says congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I march because I must.

A Happy New Year, THANK GOD!

NYE 2015I love new years. Each one makes me sigh in relief. Even if the year before was great, the clean slate of a new year shines like my classroom’s waxed floor in August before my classes stars.

This last year was NOT great. It should’ve been. I saw plenty of personal successes. But it wasn’t. I saw this image on Pinterest yesterday. It seems appropriate for what was 2014.

lost

I’m glad the minute that was 2014 is over now. It’s easy to find yourself at the end of a two-week break. I look forward to continuing that journey. And if I lose myself, I hope to do it in a way that is fun and fulfilling instead of a way that leaves me sick and tired and demoralized and up two sizes.

Here’s the thing. No person or entity or schedule or dashed expectation can make me lose myself. I know that. In the moment, though, it’s easy to forget that. It’s easy to place blame and waste tears and sink into the morass of dejection and powerlessness. But the deal is I’m only powerless if I cede my power. I did that in ’14. That’s over now. 🙂

I’m looking forward to 2015 and all it’s waxed floor shininess. I plan on moving the furniture of my life and expectations around a bit and scuffing the floor of this year. I’m going to be a grandma–sometime in the next month–and I’m getting rid of these two sizes I’ve gained and I’m going to write more Liz Lee romances (those are the steamy ones…proceed with caution). More than anything, I’m going to surround myself with positivity. That doesn’t mean I’ll accept the awful in education. I’ll still fight for fixes there. That doesn’t mean I’ll be okay with hate and misogyny and inequality. I’ll still post stories that expose those behaviors. It does mean I won’t let those things take away my joy.

I’m looking forward to 2015!

Red4EdTX

I blog about education regularly. If you’re unaware of that, check this out or this or this or this.

You get the picture.

Politicians are actively trying to privatize education while vilifying teachers. I don’t know a single district that hasn’t been affected by this change. I know we’re gearing up for the new school year and teachers are still exhausted from last school year. But those of us who stayed, and some great ones didn’t, aren’t going to give up. We’re going to show up every day and do our best to educate our students. In spite of guidelines that stress the test, we’ll stress LEARNING and the test will happen also.

I’d go on, but I stumbled on the red4edNC.com website last week and this letter that says it all perfectly. I think it’s time teachers in Texas join our friends in NC. I’m all for red4edTX. It’s time we tell our politicians we won’t allow them to kill the public school and we won’t continue to drive good teachers out of the true business of education. Anyone else in?##

My books will be available in all ebookstores Aug. 25. For now, they’re still available on Amazon exclusively. I hope you’ll check them out!

Dead Girl Walking

 

 

I Refused to Miss School Today No Matter What. Here’s Why

Best class ever. Here’s why:

  1. Prerequisite: 1st Amendment understanding

Nuclear war left world devastated. Group left makes up Goodist society where the world is always Good. No violence. No poverty. No divorce. Supressive rules: censored music, censored education. Goodist Judges who speak for the people and serve for life once elected. No marriage until 25, but must live with parents until then and train for a true career so when they turn 25, they can have a good life, therefore no money problems, which is a leading cause of divorce. No open religious beliefs since religion is a huge cause of conflict; however, personal beliefs in your own home are perfectly fine. Those who don’t follow the rules or don’t want to try are sent to the nuclear wasteland. Outcasts must sit alone. The Goodists don’t let the Outcasts form a community at the beginning of the game for fear the Outcasts would try to overthrow them and their bubble. Point of project: convince those undecided to join a side. Outcasts also trying to convince Goodists to become Outcast. Goodists trying to convince undecides to join them, but they will not allow those Outcast to join them. (AT NO TIME IN THE SESSION CAN THE MODERATOR interfere with how this plays out. You MUST be like Jeff Probst. You can ask questions, but you can’t make things happen. )

THIS SESSION (end of 2012 semester Jan. 9-11)

1.  Most of class is Goodist. 3 judges chosen, they sit in front and face forward. Only judges speak for Goodists unless a judge sees a silent Goodist with their hand raised requesting the opportunity to speak.  One Outcast. About 10 undecided.

2. An absentee joins Outcasts. 2 against rest of class.

3. Debate begins by undecideds questioning the Goodists judges or the Outcasts. Only judges speak for the Goodists unless a judge calls on a Goodist society member. At any time, the Goodist judges can call for a 60-second Goodist discussion before answering a question. When that happens Goodists meet, discuss and come up with an answer, then judge responds. Outcasts can not talk to each other at all at first. They are solitary.

4. After twenty minutes of debate a Goodist who’s been reprimanded for speaking without judges’ consent three times is kicked out of Goodist community. Goodists cheer. These judges are great at letting their people talk, so they are liked.

5. Goodist judge and undercover operative of Outcasts operating as undecided gets in kerfuffle with Goodist judge over whether a Goodist teenager committing a crime would be Outcast. She says if that’s her child she will be leave with him. Half of Goodists leave. Undecided explains she’s really Outcast.

6. The original Outcast asks Goodist judges if he can have his own group and sign a peace treaty. Goodist judges agree. EVERY Outcast joins with original in new group even though he’s not given them the laws of his new society. End of Day 1

Day 2. Moderator starts by reminding groups where we were at end of day 1 and telling Outcasts we’re going to give them a chance to change their minds about the new society since they all joined without having a clue as to what they were joining. She tells original Outcast to take two minutes to come up with the laws of his society.  (AGAIN, moderator must let student draw his own conclusions. Do Not Get Involved)

7. Moderator takes the eight remaining Goodists to the hall to come up with treaty points while Outcast leader explains new law. Five minutes later Goodists come in to discover three girls left Outcasts and are solitary. Before the new leader speaks his group other than about five on the outside huddle and do a “Go Team!” chant then “1-2-3 break hand clap thing.”) New Outcasts are caller Murica and they are based on the USA and first amendment. One of remaining two undecideds joins Murica society. No one else changes sides.

8. Now President of Murica, his vice president and the three Goodists judges meet to go over peace accord. While they are signing the treaty, one of the three solitary Outcasts asks permission to speak to Murica President and Goodist judges. She requests that the three solitary outcasts be allowed to join together. President says yes. Judges say only if the three girls are willing to move far away so they won’t be a threat to the Goodists or the new Murica society.

9. Treaty signed, but before that one of the Goodist judges tells new president she thinks the three girls really want to assassinate him and take over Murica. President asks judges if he could please have armed  secret service agents to protect him. Judges say yes. Three Murica citizens are chosen to serve as new president’s protection. President tells one agent to go kill as many of the new group as possible; however, while the treaty was in the process of being signed, 1 of the girls in the new unnamed group was silently going to the outer areas of Murica and asking individuals to join her group.1st one she asks is the undercover Outcast who posed as an undecided. The group tells her if she doesn’t join them, they’ll “kill” her instead of letting her return to her group. (At this point they call me over and ask if that would be permissible. I decide yes and tell girl if that’s the case, she will need to sit next to the wall and not say anything. Since her leader and the judges are signing peace accords, no one really notices this conversation taking place. At this time new group also tells me they’re really a violent group set on overthrowing the Goodists because they want the bubble of non-nuclear wasteland world the Goodists have created. They just want to make sure that’s okay. It is. It’s THEIR game.) Girl chooses to join new group. New group sends girl over to Murica to start recruiting for their society.  Every individual who wasn’t part of the original huddle does so. The ones in the huddle do not. (interesting.) The girl originally recruited was actually one of the huddle leaders. (also interesting.) The new people in the group sit a little apart from the original third group except two people. One: the original recruit who chose not to die and a best friend of one of the girls.

10. While peace treaty being signed Goodists left at home sit silently watching and listening. They’ve never been given a voice, so they don’t try to use it now. Muricans from huddle keep talking to each other about what they want to make Murica and throwing out comments they hope President can hear. Three secret service agents pretend to have guns and keep pointing them at new group, but they say nothing about how some of their people are moving over there. Suddenly as the President and judges are signing the treaty, one of the new recruits (best friend) runs across the room and assassinates the most vocal of the Goodist judges.

11. CHAOS ensues. Kids are loud and confused and the everyone backs away from the judge except the other judges. The judge says “You can’t do that” then looks at me for confirmation.
Game over and we go back to a circle to discuss what’s happened over the course of the last two days and how the same thing happens all over the world. We discuss Utopias, WW2, 1984, The Hunger Games, dystopian literature in general. Tomorrow we’ll break it down even further and talk about WHY THIS MATTERS.

Every year this exercise AMAZES me. I’m stunned by how it plays out. It’s an RPG, so the students have to control the outcome. If the adviser tries to, it destroy the learning outcome. Don’t do it. Let the first amendment work. It will.

You do have to facilitate. Since it’s a debate and an RPG. You have to be in control of the classroom at all times. You can’t be too strict because you have to let things happen. Make sure the debate goes on for at least a day so you have plenty of discussion points. If for some reason the debate stalls say you’re taking off your moderator hat and become an undecided and ask questions that will lead to conflicted answers. If you empower the students, they will start taking part in the discussion. In all the years I’ve done this (almost two decades) only two classes ever didn’t make this work. One year every kid in the class went to the Outcast side.  (AWESOME year, by the way.) When that happened I let them lead the discussion on why. It turned into point/counter point. The usual second and third days were spent studying first amendment cases and high school students and how they affected kids in my school district.  The second year it didn’t work, I messed up. I did it at the end of my first set of first amendment lessons, so about three weeks into the semester. The students didn’t have enough confidence in their voice in my classroom yet, so they were afraid to debate each other and afraid to question me if I threw out those “devil’s advocate” type scenarios. Wait to do this until the end of the third six weeks and it should be fun.

I loved this week. Once again, the first amendment wins and once again my students leave the classroom with a lesson they’ll never forget.

It’s kind of like tricking them into working HARD without them realizing it. 🙂 Sneaky teacher. Yeah, that’s me.

*This lesson started as a lesson from the Freedom of Information in Texas organization. It was a freedom of religion exercise about the Church of Goodism. The kids never got into it like that, so I changed it. Turning it into a dystopia and making the religious element one of several points makes this a lot of fun.

You’ve got to be kidding me?!

First thing this morning I fell while walking the dog. In case you haven’t heard, the winds were blowing 50 mph this morning. And it was freezing!

So there I was walking Emmie, and BOOM! on the ground. This isn’t anything new really. In fact, it’s fair to say it’s MORE a surprise that I didn’t fall before today.  I fell across the street from a student’s house. Sometimes the student’s dad is outside in the morning. Fortunately that was not the case this morning. 🙂

To be honest, though, I didn’t really think about him at first. My first thought while I was lying there on the asphalt of Easy Street (yes, really) was OHMYGOD Governor Perry wants to make it legal for me to carry concealed to school. I’m not the clutziest teacher I know. Think about that for a minute and be afraid, very, very afraid.

Scary days. Scary days indeed.

I Understand

Once again I’m going to say thank goodness for Dave Ramsey.

Until Dave, DH and I purchased new cars on a regular basis. We’d been brainwashed to believe a car payment is a normal part of life. Just like we’d been brainwashed to believe student loans were no big deal and credit cards (and their points) were a help when it came to budgeting.

Today we’re almost debt free…other than medical bills.

DH is self-employed, and his insurance deductible is $10K. He had kidney stones earlier this year. One trip to the ER later and, boom, hello debt.

DH has a $10k deductible because it’s what we can afford. It sucks that his only insurance is one that protects us from something catastrophic.

It stinks that he has a solid small business and I’m a teacher and we both have degrees and we’re making way more money than we ever dreamed but we can’t afford for him to go to the doctor when he’s sick.

It’s that kind of thing that makes me understand the rage of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

Something’s got to change. But as long as people fighting the status quo allow themselves to become political pawns on either side of the congressional aisle, if they refuse to work together, real change can’t happen.

That’s why I love No Labels. We need to hold our politicians accountable for their refusal to compromise, their stubborn reliance on party talking points instead of real dialogue.

This is America. And it’s a scary time for us. But I don’t believe the pundits who say we’re done, we’ve lost, and there’s no coming back from this global economic downturn. However, we must stand up and make our voices heard. We must tell our elected officials we won’t allow politics as usual or corporate greed and corruption to destroy us.

And if our politicians don’t hear us now, we must make sure they do when we go to the polls.

 

 

Schools Aren’t Failing, Society Is

No, Our schools AREN’T failing. Despite what you read or see on the news, despite what school reformers making a ton of money off the government say, despite what testing companies print, our schools aren’t failing.

Our SOCIETY is failing.

A few facts:

• 1. According to Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2007, released by the U.S. Census Bureau in November, 2009, there are approximately 13.7 million single parents in the United States today, and those parents are responsible for raising 21.8 million children (approximately 26% of children under 21 in the U.S. today

• 2. In the most recent Census Bureau statistics, 2.4 million of the nation’s families are maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them–an increase of 400,000 (19 percent) since 1990. These families comprise 7 percent of all families with children under 18.

• 2b. Slightly more than half (1.3 million) of these 2.4 million grandparent-maintained families contain both grandparents; 1.0 million have only a grandmother; and 150,000 have only a grandfather.

• 3. Nearly 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $22,050 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 42% of children live in low-income families.

• 4. – Illicit teen drug use as of 2003.
* 8th grade — 30.3%
* 10th grade — 44.9%
* 12th grade — 52.8%

• 5. While no national data on the extent of truancy exists, we know that in some cities unexcused absences can number in the thousands each day. here are some statistics that have been gathered:
Studies have shown that two-thirds of male juveniles arrested while truant tested positive for drug use.
According to one confidential survey, nearly 1 in ten 15 year olds were truant at least once a week.

These facts can’t be blamed on teachers or schools. When I was in school, dropouts were a fact of life. A friend of mine got married and had a baby when she was 16. She quit school. It was just the expected. Years before that, my father-in-law quit school in 8th grade to go to work. It wasn’t that long ago that special needs students were sent to the hallway Or a closet sized classroom to work on their own. They certainly weren’t expected to master objectives in a class or on a test. And students whose first language was anything other than English were simply out of luck in our schools.

I don’t want to go back to a time where the above are considered acceptable, but to compare our schools today with those of the past on a side by side scale is ridiculous. It’s like comparing apples to cars and saying while they’re both red, one sure does taste bad.

Can our schools get better? Yes. I don’t know a single teacher or admin who isn’t on a constant search to improve. Will they get better by following Race to the Top, administering a new standardized test, encouraging vouchers and privatization? No. But people who have nothing to do with educating children will get rich(er) selling people on the idea that that they’ve got the cure.

Cited:

1. http://singleparents.about.com/od/legalissues/p/portrait.htm

2. http://ohioline.osu.edu/ss-fact/0158.html

3. http://www.nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html

4. http://www.teendrugabuse.us/teendrugstatistics.html

5. http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/troubledteens/a/truancy_2.htm

Yes, it is important

Yesterday someone I love told me I needed to understand the budget cuts were unavoidable and that the waste in education is the reason for budget problems in Texas. Ultimately, the person said, you could see the real problem with education in one area specifically: Pre-K. In the person’s opinion, which was developed based on numerous pieces of Tea Party propaganda, pre-K is a complete waste of tax payer dollars.
The person ended their argument by explaining that they had never been in pre-K, so why was it necessary?
This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with the whole school budget problem this biennium.
The people making the decisions have NO IDEA what they’re talking about.
I explained to the person speaking that pre-K teachers prepare low socio-economic students for school. These kids sometimes have one parent, often none. Instead grandparents are raising the children. Pre-K’s feed the hungry. The pre-K teachers I know buy clothes for kids, shower children, run washing machines because kids come to class filthy and teach pre-reading and math skills.
Should education be the stand-in for family? Maybe not, but the reality is it IS. Without pre-K, you are dooming these children to a life of poverty before they ever even have a chance.
BUT our legislators, led by a Tea Party insistent on change and making these decisions without any real knowledge. They’re not talking to educators. They’re being led by lobbyists down the rabbit hole of education by voucher and choice. A place and tie where the rich get richer and the poor die.
The person explaining to me how non-essential pre-K is also let me know Public Education isn’t guaranteed. I told her she was wrong. While it might not be in the constitution, public education is guaranteed by our state constitution.

I’m not sure what’s going on with our state politicians, but I do know education is essential. I know it’s a path out of poverty, and I know we are not a country built on the idea that those with money control the agenda.

I read an email from a teacher about learned helplessness. She says educators let this kind of thing happen because we feel we are powerless. I’m not sure how we find the power, but I do know, if these bills on the floor pass, if our education system is decimated, we have an OBLIGATION to make sure those in office now never find their way to office again. We must start now working to make sure this never happens again.

Vote Set for Tomorrow

I’ve written my letters. Tomorrow the House vote on public education funding. It’s not the end of the battle, but it’s going to give district’s a little more direction. So far it’s looking ugly. Today I judged a prompt about a new kind of secondary school. Only core academics, no electives, no sports. It’s the wave of the future if something doesn’t change.
Until the state govt. realizes they made changes in 2006 and haven’t funded us fully since, until they solve the problem they created then, things will only get worse.