Sororities Suck

I don’t often slam people or things, but today I’m going to. Sororities suck.

I’ve never been in one and have never understood it, but now I know for sure that they suck. I never went to a school that had sororities, but I did spend one year on exchange at Washington and Lee University (the first year they took women) and got a taste of fraternity life. Partying there for two years (both freshman year when I went to a neighboring womens’ school and sophomore year while there on exchange), fraternities seemed like nothing other than a way to separate boys into houses. There were southern boys from Texas in one fraternity. Hippies in another. I hung out at the house with the surfer type beach dudes. It was all about partying and fun.

My oldest daughter wanted to rush a sorority last year when she started college here in Texas. I told her I’d support her in it even though I didn’t understand it and it was an extra expense for us. During orientation, we attended a session introducing the Greek system and telling the girls what to expect when they started rushing. When it was question and answer time, I was the mom who raised her hand to ask exactly what are they looking for when they accept new members. Honestly, I was trying to understand. The answer I got was totally strange, something like, “Well if we absolutely can’t stand to talk to the girl, she won’t be accepted.” Nothing concrete. No real information like they are looking for girls with academic strengths or a strong volunteer record or even possessing specific talents. I left the meeting with a sick feeling in my stomach and told my daughter it sounded like nothing more than a popularity contest. I didn’t understand why she wanted to join a sorority, but she did, so we supported her. She rushed and was accepted into ZTA (Zeta Tau Alpha).

Zeta Tau Alpha

Zeta Tau Alpha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At first I thought it was a good thing. She was busy with all the structured activities, and they participated in philanthropic activities. She had an immediate identity and group friends. All sororities have a color and a theme, and her world was filled with teal and silver, crowns and strawberries. Why? I have no idea. But whatever, it made her happy so there you go. It made me happy that she was happy. We paid all the extra fees and bought her all of the things they told her to buy including specific color dresses, shoes and clothes to wear to special events. We paid over a hundred dollars so she could make a paddle for her ‘big’ sister (what the heck do they do with a hundred-dollar paddle?). She had to decorate coolers for her dates for parties. She was happy though, so we went with it and just paid for everything. We liked that they had a minimum grade point average and study halls built into their codes. While her grades weren’t stellar, she was keeping up with everything and proud that she was a ZTA. Last year, her freshman year, I was working full-time and had my fifth knee surgery, so I was never able to visit her for family weekend or ZTA mom’s weekend.

This year, I did fly out for mom’s weekend. The sorority house was impressive, and I was happy to participate in the activities. I wrote about it here. I had no idea what was about to happen next.

Then, she told me the lady in charge didn’t like her and she wasn’t allowed to rush any of the incoming freshman in the fall. It was troubling to hear about personal politics, but I’m aware that kind of thing goes on all the time unfortunately. I suggested she talk with the lady, find out what her concerns are, and then do whatever she could to fix the problem. Not being there on a day-to-day basis, I had no idea why my daughter wasn’t liked and wasn’t allowed to participate in rushing (even though she went to school early for rush and I still bought her everything she needed to participate in rush). Her grades this year weren’t stellar, but they were still above the minimum GPA.

Then the hammer dropped. She got financially expelled. Why? Because we had fraud on our debit card, and the bank shut it down and gave me a new one. It was the same debit card that we used to pay for her sorority’s account. They automatically withdrew money all the time to pay for dues and this and that. Apparently, my daughter had it set up so it emailed just her, not us, in the case of any problems. So, I never realized they needed a new card number or I would have gladly supplied them with the new one. She didn’t check her emails regularly and after two months of non-payment, they expelled her. Keep in mind this happened about two weeks after I was out there for mom’s weekend. When I talked to the lady in charge, she said that we shouldn’t have been allowed to participate in mom’s weekend. But we were. They allowed her to pick up her T-shirts, and we fully participated in all the events. Nobody told us there was a financial problem. I thought everything was fine.

She was very upset when she found out she got financially expelled, and I called the lady in charge and she said if we paid the bill, my daughter could reapply. So we did. We paid the bills immediately, and she went through the steps of reapplying to the national organization. We waited and waited, and then nationals wrote her back and told her that they denied her application because there was no support in the local chapter for her to be reinstated. I called the national office and spoke with the financial person, and she told me everything was fine on the national level. We paid her bill, and she was cleared through the national office. However, the local chapter voted not to reinstate her, but she didn’t know why. So, my husband called the lady in charge of the local chapter (the same lady I spoke to earlier), and she told him she had no idea what was going on. She told him there was no local vote and that she knew of no reason why my daughter would be rejected on a local level. She said she would look into it, talk to my daughter, and try to work things out to help her get back in.

She lied. Instead of doing what she said, she called my daughter down to the house and sat her down outlining reasons why they didn’t let her back in. Her grades weren’t very good (true but still above the minimum and never any disciplinary action taken), that her social media was a problem (again, never any disciplinary action taken), that they sent her to judicial before (which they didn’t) and that she didn’t participate enough (again, she was not allowed to rush and the lady in charge forced her to sit out). As far as I can understand, each and every reason they gave her was bogus. If they wanted her out for those reasons, why did they never state that? Why was she expelled for financial reasons and then kept out for other reasons? I will tell you why. Politics. Mean people. That’s why.

I lost my teaching job the same way. Completely blindsided with bogus reasons. No disciplinary action. No former notice. No help. Just lies and personal dislike. And when people don’t like you and don’t want you around, it’s not worth fighting to stay. It’s an ugly beast that you can’t beat with logic and reason and truth. It’s a tough lesson to learn.

Life is so unfair that way sometimes, but unfortunately that’s just the way it is. It’s left a very bitter taste in our mouths, and it shows how sly and conniving people are. It’s sad to me that an adult woman would use personal politics against a college aged kid. It’s sad to me that she would be dishonest to both me and my husband when we tried to get information about what was going on and how to help. I’m calling her out on her lies and manipulation of the situation.

Shame on you lady! How can you sleep at night?

All I have to say is I was right. Sororities are stupid. They are nothing more than popularity contests and an organized way to party.

Mean People Suck

Mean People Suck (Photo credit: Steven-L-Johnson)

 

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Shattered Dreams

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“I was weeping because Richard Parker left me so unceremoniously.  It broke my heart.” ~ Life of Pi

Every two years, our high school runs a program called Shattered Dreams. Today is the day again. I’ve been seeing the signs around town giving notice there will be a mock accident scene this morning. I attended the program in 2011 when my oldest daughter (19) was a senior at the high school. Here is a link to some information about Shattered Dreams.

http://www.coppellisd.com/site/Default.aspx?PageID=939

Juniors, seniors, and parents assemble in the gym to begin the program. The student media center KCBY made a movie depicting high school seniors going to prom and partying, and it ends with a car crash. Then students, faculty, and parents quietly walked outside to the parking lot where a mock accident scene was enacted, crashed cars and all. EMS arrived on the scene, sirens blaring, and a helicopter landed in the parking lot. It was all very dramatic, as if it were a real accident scene. Onlookers watch while bodies are extracted from the cars. Survivors act out the scene; it’s projected on loud speakers. Some of the kid didn’t survive. They were covered in white sheets and later taken away in hearses. The others were taken from the scene via the helicopter and the ambulances.

It’s a hard-hitting simulation aimed at scaring kids out of drinking and driving during prom season. While the Shattered Dreams program lasted a few hours in the morning, other students were removed from class throughout the day in fifteen minute intervals by the grim reaper and pronounced dead. They painted their faces white, put on black t-shirts and returned to class and remained silent all day, in class and in the hallways. They serve a visual reminder of ‘what if’ that person suddenly wasn’t there anymore because of an accident. There were fake obituaries, written by pre-selected students’ parents hanging in the hallways. and read out loud. It’s like giving the students a chance to think ahead to what it would be like if suddenly a chair in class goes empty because of a student death. It’s a way to show the kids how serious the consequences are and how much those people would be missed by their loved ones and the community.  Here is a link to a slide show:

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2009/04/22/coppell_gazette/news/50.txt

Unfortunately, this town has seen its fair share of teenage deaths, and while they haven’t all been attributed to drinking and driving, there is an epidemic of tragedy here that warrants all the effort that goes into Shattered Dreams. I have utmost respect for EMS officers who respond to the scenes of emergencies and do everything they can to save people. In just six years since we’ve lived here, our town has lost many young people:

Veronica Sheer died sixteen days after she was hit by a car crossing the street. She was fourteen years old. Now there is a fence there to keep high schoolers from crossing the street there after school. 2006 http://www.mydeathspace.com/article/2006/10/27/Veronica_Sheer_(14)_died_sixteen_days_after_being_struck_by_a_car_while_attempting_to_cross_the_street

Carter Jackson died when he was eighteen years old, and his little sister was friends with my oldest daughter at the time. I took her to the funeral during our first school year here. It was heartbreaking seeing all the pictures from his life and to see his lifeless body in the coffin wearing a Hollister jacket. It didn’t seem right that someone so young was already gone. 2007

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17795354

carter

Travis Masters died instantly when his car went under an 18 wheeler. He was a nineteen year old college freshman. 2008

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2008/05/13/obits/masters0507.txt
http://www.star-telegram.com/2008/04/25/604344/man-dies-in-crash-on-texas-121.html

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Cristina Coker was found hanging from the swing set at an elementary school. She was an eighteen year-old college freshman and died within a few hours of Travis. 2008

http://www.coppellgazette.com/articles/2008/05/03/coppell_gazette/news/01.txt

cristina

Adam Hartwick drowned when he lost control of his truck and flipped upside down in a backyard pool. He was just nineteen years old and one of my good friends. Out of all these local tragedies, he is the one person I knew and was close with. We met after I took College Algebra at the local community college in 2007. He texted me the night before his accident, and I never answered him. It was so hard to believe when I heard the news about what happened the next day. It all went by so fast, I’m still trying to get used to the idea that he is gone forever. He would be 24 now, finished with college and moving on with a career and perhaps a family. Adam was good friends with Travis and grieved his loss just a few months before his own unexpected and untimely death. He also knew Carter and was at his funeral a year earlier. He went to the Shattered Dreams program when he was in high school. Little did he know just a few years later, EMS would arrive on his accident scene, unable to save his life. 2008

http://www.mydeathspace.com/article/2008/11/20/Adam_Hartwick_(19)_drowned_when_his_truck_flipped_into_a_swimming_pool

http://www.scntx.com/articles/2008/09/10/coppell_gazette/news/48.txt

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Ryan Sullivan was 22 when he died/ His little sister is friends with my oldest daughter. 2009

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dallasmorningnews/obituary.aspx?n=ryan-sullivan&pid=133287315#fbLoggedOut

Justin Henry died when he was nineteen years old. I met him once with a mutual friend. 2010 http://coppell.tributes.com/our_obituaries/Justin-Lee-Henry-89594969

justin

Corrine Peters died when her mother, our mayor, shot her (before she killed herself). She was nineteen, about to be a college freshman and was on the high school drill team with my oldest daughter. 2010

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/coppell/headlines/20100715-friends-say-corinne-peters-never-had-a-frown-on-her-face.ece
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/07/14/texas-mayor-teen-daughter-shot-dead-home/

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Taylor Storch died after a tragic skiing accident on spring break. She was just thirteen years old. Today, I got a “Taylor Blue” manicure to support organ donation. 2010

http://www.taylorsgift.org
http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Teen-Dies-During-Ski-Trip-87961662.html

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Keifer Smith died of mysterious causes, found in a decorative pond in his apartment complex. My oldest daughter knew him from high school. He was eighteen years old. 2011

http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20110715/NEWS08/110719839

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Jacob Logan died from cliff diving at Possum Kingdom Lake. It took three days to find his body. He was a seventeen year-old football star. My oldest daughter knew him through the high school. I saw a boy at the middle school yesterday wearing Jacob’s shirt. It’s blue and it says “the hybrid, the legend, the guardian angel.” 2012
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/coppell/headlines/20121018-body-of-coppell-football-star-jacob-logan-recovered-from-possum-kingdom-lake.ec

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Jonah Blackwell shot himself just a few days after Jacob’s accident in a local park. He was also a high school senior. 2012 http://www.pegasusnews.com/news/2012/oct/18/coppell-teen-shot-death-park-carrollton-jonah/
http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/dallas/Two-deaths-in-three-days-devastate-Coppell-HS-174663651.html

jonah

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I’d like to take a moment to remember all these young people whose lives were tragically cut short. Unfortunate accidents and events shattered their dreams in an instant. May they rest in peace forever. And may the future be bright for those still lucky enough to have their lives.

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“In the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go,

but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” ~ Life of Pi

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

My Love Affair with Math

I started preschool when I was two years old then skipped kindergarten starting first grade at five years old. I don’t remember much of that early learning, but I do remember puzzles and playing music. My mom is a musician, and she started me on violin (Suzuki method) at the age of three. I grew up knowing how to read music on the violin, and I think that might have been an important step in my brain’s development that led to my understanding of math and science (thanks mom). Music is all math and science.

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I do remember doing math in the early elementary years, and it was always easy. I had good number sense. The first few years of elementary school were a breeze, and the only thing I got in trouble for was singing or humming in class. I understood place value and basic computation. I learned multiplication and division with no problem. After third grade, my mom decided I should repeat third grade so I could be with my age group, and I did fourth grade work. I scored in the genius category on IQ tests and took GT classes through elementary and middle school. Again, I don’t remember much about those years, or particularly liking math at that time, but I do remember it being easy. My mom called me a walking telephone book because I could always remember phone numbers with ease (the same is true for today except that with iPhones I do admit I don’t know everyone’s phone numbers like the old days in the 1970s-80s). But I’ve always had a good memory for numbers and patterns.

Looking back at my high school transcript (Class of 1986 Go Lancers!) I can see why my guidance counselor advised me to pursue a major in French and then return to the Washington, DC area to work at the state department as a translator. I took four years of French and got two B+s and two As. Only three years of math were required back then, so I only did the bare minimum. I got a B in Algebra 1 (ninth grade), a B in Geometry (tenth grade), and a C in Algebra 2/Trigonometry (eleventh grade). Everything got confusing once we got to logarithms. I don’t remember having hatred or dislike toward math, but I don’t remember particularly liking it either. My m.o. back then was to do ok academically and still have a social life and a love life. I did gymnastics and cheerleading and played soccer. I talked a lot in class and was a social butterfly even back then. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I took my counselor’s advice and started my freshman year at Hollins College as a French major. Nobody made me take a math class that year. I did take computer science and programming, which is mathematical, but there was no other math requirement that year. My sophomore year, I did an exchange program at Washington & Lee University. There, I switched my major to Philosophy & Religion. I took a music appreciation class, but again, no math class. I took my junior year off and worked for Greenpeace USA in DC then completed a Spring Semester in the Rockies with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). After that, I transferred to Prescott College and changed my major again to Environmental Studies. I minored in Outdoor Education and Liberal Arts. I passed the math proficiency test there and didn’t have to take any math classes (the proficiency test is equivalent to college algebra).

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I graduated from Marymount University with my master’s degree in education (M.Ed. PreK-8) and became a teacher. My first position was sixth grade, all subjects in Reno, Nevada. Sixth grade deals with a lot of fractions and decimals, yet many of the students were below grade level and still working on memorizing multiplication and division tables. That is when I first started to take an interest in math education. It was a challenge to teach sixth grade skills when kids lacked knowledge they should know from previous years.  I moved to Virginia and worked as a sixth grade teacher in Fairfax County teaching math, science, and health in a Gifted/Talented Center. G/T Centers are 24/7 G/T all subjects grades 3-6. Highly gifted kids learn third and fourth grade math in third grade, fifth grade math in fourth grade, sixth grade math in fifth grade, and seventh and eighth grade math in sixth grade. That’s when I found my niche. I taught seventh and eighth grade math compacted into one year to highly gifted sixth graders, preparing some of them for Algebra 1 in seventh grade. Most of the kids progressed to Honors Math 7 and then to Algebra 1 in eighth grade. FCPS has several different math tracks, and they do a great job of offering enrichment and advancement in mathematics to those are are able. While that is a small percentage of the general population, it is an excellent way to let those students who excel in math to move ahead and take college math in high school. It was fast paced and challenging. I received professional development to prepare me and assist me, and I fell in love with math! Being an adult in a math classroom was a completely different experience than being a child in a math classroom. With my background in science, it all made sense and I was able to make more connections to the real world. Because of my background as a gifted learner, I was a good combination with the gifted kids. In addition to the fast paced curriculum, the kids did enrichment projects like City of Lights (scale models of DC buildings wired to light with bulbs and batteries) and Mathematician Expedition (a research paper on a mathematician of choice). We developed an understanding of the essentials in math, but we also discovered deeper conceptual understanding of mathematics in general.

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My third position was in a middle school in Texas. I taught seventh grade, sixth grade Pre-AP, and sixth grade math. It was my first position at a middle school teaching only math. It was an excellent opportunity to focus solely on math education and to use new technology in math instruction. I co-sponsored the Math & Chess Club and worked with kids at a wide spectrum of skill levels. It helped me sharpen my focus on the middle school math years. The middle school years are an essential link in preparing students for high school math. The concepts go from concrete to abstract as students explore the use of variables and use multistep complex problem solving. Kids become fluent in fractions, decimals, percents, and integers. They explore proportionality and use formulas to solve geometric problems. They use basic number sense and calculation skills to solve more abstract problems.

I started tutoring math privately in 2001 and am focusing solely on tutoring now, both in person and via skype. I see math everywhere now. One-on-one tutoring allows me to individualize to meet each student’s needs. We start where the student is and we take it one step at a time from Pre Algebra through Algebra 2. Since I discovered as a teacher that I like math and understand math, my goal in life is to help others learn and like math, especially girls. It’s a heavily male dominated workforce, and girls are typically stereotyped not to like math. I am confident and enthusiastic and hope to share my love of math with my students. I hope to inspire them to feel confident in their skills and to pursue a college education, in whatever field they choose. They will need strong foundation in math no matter what job they do as adults.

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My undergraduate degree was in science, and now I have specialized in math. I play chess and guitar. I do puzzles and listen to classical music. I expose my kids to math on a regular basis and point out everywhere I see math. They get tired of hearing me say ‘math is everywhere’, or ‘that’s math’, or ‘that’s science’, but it really is true. Math is everywhere and it’s involved in every job that every kid will do when they grow up. As an adult looking back on my own education, I wish the math requirements were then what they are today. I wish I or someone else noticed that I liked math and was good at it and that I had taken math classes in college. Now I love algebra and geometry. I picked up where I left off with logarithms. In 2007, I went back to school and took College Algebra at a local community college in Texas. I’m currently taking Trigonometry on www.khanacademy.org and want to take PreCalculus and Calculus when I am ready. With a husband and kids and a house to run, it’s not as easy now as it would have been to take those classes in college. But, it’s never to late to learn. I read somewhere to be happy, do what you love. I love math. So, I’m going to keep doing it!

Worst Teacher of the Year

What the hell is wrong with our elementary school? In general, I support all schools and teachers. I have deep respect for the hard work they do. But when something happens or is said that I disagree with, I stand up and speak my mind.  Isn’t that my right as a parent?

We have butted heads repeatedly over the years over a few issues: supervision and homework (or lack thereof). Every time there is an issue, my concerns fall on deaf ears. The only way I’ve gotten any concerns addressed is to go above their heads to the district.

Yesterday, I went to school for Special Friends Day with my second grade son. I was excited I could be there since the past two years I was a working mom and had to miss it. My mom in law was there too. We had lunch with him outside and then he started playing soccer with other boys since it was their recess time. My mom in law and I got to talking, and I didn’t see what happened, but he came out upset and crying saying the other team was cheating and that one boy gave him a red card and kicked him out of the game. I told him there are no referees in the game and that another kid can’t just kick him out. I told him to go back and play and that I would stand up for him if the boy started messing with him again. So I started paying more attention to the game.

A few minutes later, that same boy started fighting with another boy. They were kicking each other repeatedly, punching each other and slamming their bodies into each other. I watched and looked around for a teacher, but nobody else was watching. I stood up, called my son over, and broke up the fight by telling the boys to stop it. My mom in law took away the soccer ball because they were fighting, not playing.

I thought the school should know there was just a fight, so I sent my son over to tell a teacher who was watching the playground (with her back to the soccer field.)  In the past when I was working as a teacher, no matter what school or what state I was in, there was zero tolerance for fighting.  Kids had consequences.  I figured the teachers needed to know so they could handle it.  I watched as my son told the teacher, and I watched as she dismissed him and kept chatting with a mom with her back to the soccer field.  My son came back to the blanket, and I asked him if she was going to do anything about the fight, and he said he didn’t know.  My mom in law and I looked at each  other in disbelief and sat there watching the teacher and wondering if she was going to act on the information she had just received.  No such luck, she continued to stand there chatting with a mom.  So, I decided to say something to her myself.

I walked over to her and excused myself for interrupting her very important (not) conversation with this mom and asked her if she was going to do anything about the boys fighting.  At first, she said she was just told about it and would deal with it later.  I repeated my concerns wondering if she was going to do anything about it at that moment, since there were adult witnesses and the boys were now dispersing.  She mocked me, slapping her hand on her thigh and using a fake voice to say, ‘well, I will just get right on that! I will do something right away.’  Then she turned to keep chatting with the mom who was standing there. I stood there giving her a hard stare until she took some action.  She called one boy over, and I heard him say, “I wasn’t really fighting.”  So I replied, “yes he was!”  Then things took a turn for the worse.

The teacher then turned around and came at me with her finger pointed, raised her voice, and got in my face telling me that I have ‘no control there’ and that ‘if I wanted to continue talking to her about this incident that I needed to go inside because I was embarassing her.’  She told me I needed to go inside so we could talk with an administrator, to which I replied that I’m sure it was very embarrasing for her since she was the only teacher on duty and kids were fighting and she wasn’t doing anything about it.  Like this conversation with this mom standing there was more important that the safety of kids who were beating each other up??

So, I gladly obliged.  Sure, let’s go inside and talk to an administrator, why not.  We go inside, and we find an administrator, and we sit down, and the first thing she says is, “I’m so pissed.”  How professional?  Let me get this straight.  Two boys beat each other up.  No teacher is watching. No teacher does anything about it.  When I tell a teacher and ask her to act on it, I am the one at fault and am sent to the office.  SHE is the one who is angry, and MY behavoir is inappropriate, not the behavior of the fighting boys.  Really?

She is the first to speak and unleashes with lies.  Apparently, I walked up to her and started yellling at her. Apparently, I attacked her, and this is her defense.  Whatever.  I got a chance to speak my side of the story, and after I explained the urgency of the issue in my opinion, the AP replied with, ‘well we aren’t into public humiliation, and we aim to preserve the dignity of the child, so I’m going to go on the assumption that you (the teacher) were going to look into it later.’  To which I replied that not issuing immediate consequences gives a couple messages:  that if you get in a fight at our elementary school, nothing is going to happen, and that the conversation with the mom was more important than the kids’ safety. I didn’t understand how they expected to get to the bottom of things later in the day once the adult witnesses were gone and the kids were going to lie about it.

It was clear the teacher wasn’t going to do ANYTHING about the fight.  She was too busy chit chatting with another mom to even care about what just happened.  The AP pointed out that we have a philosophical divide – that I expected immediate consequences, and that’s just not how they do things at our school.  She did assure me there were consequences for fighting, and that they would look into it.  She did her best to defend her teacher, which is what she should do.  But, in my opinion, there is no defense of a teacher who turns her back on the report of kids fighting and who acts so unprofessional to a parent with a concern.  All she had to do was excuse herself from the mom she was talking to, call the boys over and deal with the conflict.  Is that too much to ask?

Instead of the boys getting in trouble for beating each other up, I was the one who was out of line apparently.  I was the one sent to the office. I was the one she was “pissed” at.  What message does that send to the children?  She is the most unprofessional teacher I have ever dealt with.  I have never seen a teacher wag her finger in my face and yell at me over something the kids did.  In my opinion, she is the worst teacher I’ve ever met.  It makes me sick that the administration backs this and other behaviors in the past.  We still have three more years at this school, so wish me luck. I’m going to keep being myself and standing up for my kid and for what I think is right for kids in general.

Here’s a quick recap of past conflicts:

1. No homework. They formed a committee of parents and teachers who decided homework isn’t beneficial unless it’s purposeful and meaningful (duh). So instead of assigning purposeful and meaningful homework, they decided no homework. I fought the battle again this year when my son’s second grade teacher wrote home saying there wouldn’t be any homework.  I opposed, and she replied saying they adopted the district guidelines.  I searched the district guidelines and sent them to her and the principal.  The guidelines are about high quality, meaningful homework, not NO homework.  The teacher and principal stopped answering me and told me to talk to the district.  I did. The district said they are NOT a no homework district, and they tried to tell me my school is aligned with their guidelines.  Once I sent the email saying there is NO homework, she said it must be some kind of misunderstanding.  In the end, she offered to send home a workbook that goes with the math series. That’s all I wanted in the first place. I can’t believe it was so hard to get some homework for my child when it was clearly available all along.  I don’t appreciate being lied to either. I don’t appreciate that the teacher and principal stopped being responsive.  I don’t appreciate that they lie and do what is easiest on them.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.

2.  Supervision:

  • Instead of hiring substitute teachers, they let parent volunteers manage classrooms for half days while the staff meets for PLCs (Professional Learning Committees).  Parent volunteers are only background checked in the state of Texas.  So a child molester from another state can easily be in charge of my kids’ class one day just because my elementary school wants to save some money and not hire a sub!
  • When my middle daughter was in third grade, her teacher left the class alone so she could take boxes out to her car.  It was toward the end of the year, and she was moving classrooms the next year.  So she decided to ask a couple kids to help and she left the class alone.  Well, my daughter had to go pee.  She is a rule follower and didn’t want to leave the classroom without permission.  So what happened? She peed her pants!  Then the kids went running next door saying, ‘we need a teacher, she peed her pants!’  My daughter came home humiliated. When I talked to the principal about it, she tried to appeal to the fact that I’ve been a teacher before, and she said you know there are times when you have to leave your classes alone.  OK, like maybe in an emergency, or maybe if you are having a bathroom problem, or something I can see running out for a few minutes if you have to.  But you are supposed to get coverage.  You are supposed to reserve those times to absolute emergencies.  You aren’t supposed to leave your class alone to take things to your car. That is NOT an emergency!

I’m sick of lazy teachers. I’m sick of lazy administrators. I’m sick of people around here being fake!  Do what’s right for kids. Watch them with your eyeballs.  Try to challenge them. Teach them study habits.  And act when something goes wrong.  That’s all I ask.

 

Daybook


 

FOR TODAY  August 26, 2012

Outside my window…it’s a cloudy day. 

I am thinking…about the kids.  Sierra had a busy week with her sorority doing rush.  We haven’t had much of a chance to talk, but she seems to be very happy.  She sent pictures from her newly decorated apartment.  Brent graduates from boot camp soon.  We want to send a present to congratulate him on his accomplishment.  It’s been great to keep up with what his company is doing on facebook. They’ve also posted several pictures.  Zoe and Thomas start school tomorrow (seventh and second grade respectively).  Zoe is out with her gram gram getting her nails done and her hair cut right now.  Thomas met his teacher this week and is all ready for the new school year.  Zoe is ready to go back and see her friends. 

I am thankful…for my family and friends.  Had a fun time this week making new friends on a girls’ night out and also visiting with neighbors at happy hour last night.  I am thankful Joe made partner at his law firm this week!  It was his first time up for it, and he made it. Amazing!  I’m thankful for plenty of students to tutor.  It’s been really fun helping kids fill gaps and get ready for the new school year this summer.

In the kitchen…baked chicken, leftover meatballs w/ marinara sauce, going out to dinner tonight, so not cooking anything right now.

I am wearing…black yoga pants and a gray and white striped tank top.

I am creating…learning more about playing the guitar – this week learned more notes to play when soloing.  Here are a couple of the songs I’m playing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhcnKYvzfZc  (Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRsJlAJvOSM  (Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton)

I am going…to PF Chang’s for dinner with my in-laws to celebrate Joe making partner.  They have a great gluten free menu, so I can eat there.

I am wondering…how the first day of school will go for the kids tomorrow.  Sierra starts college sophomore classes.  Zoe starts second grade. Thomas starts second grade.  He said it’s his goal to make at least one new friend on the first day of school.

I am reading…

I am hoping…for more sunny afternoons at the pool before it closes.

I am looking forward to…the house being quiet tomorrow.

I am learning…trigonometry on www.khanacademy.org

Around the house…laundry and dishes need doing.  Our housekeepers came a few days ago, so all the deep cleaning is done.  Zoe (12) does her own laundry now. My challenge is keeping up with mine, Joe’s, and Thomas’s.

I am pondering…what meals to make this week.  It will be the first week back at school, and I tutor after school and the kids have sports too.  We will be busy!  I want to make up a plan so I will be prepared and not have to drive through and eat junk food because it’s quick. 

A favorite quote for today…
The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.

Rodney Yee

One of my favorite things…yoga class on Sunday mornings. 

A few plans for the rest of the week:  tutoring after school and running Zoe to all her dance classes.  Thomas has early dismissal Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week. Taking him back in on Wednesday afternoon for assessment. 

A peek into my day…

Pearls on a String

     “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.”  ~Richard Bach
When things are difficult, we are really learning. Think about it. If everything was easy, would you learn anything? Psychologist Jean Piaget referred to the unsettling feeling of learning something new as “disequilibrium.”  When we already know something, we are in a state of equilibrium.  When we learn something new, we are in a state of disequilibrium.  Without disequilibrium, we don’t learn anything new.
Problem:  It was my second year teaching at a new school after returning from a six-year hiatus to stay home with my son.   I lasted through the first year and through the transition to a new grade level and principal the second year.  It was the Friday before spring break on my eighth year of teaching, and I had literally just taken a pie to the face in honor of Pi Day coming up on 3/14.  We gave up the scheduled day of curriculum to celebrate Pi and have fun watching brainpop videos about Pi and Einstein and competing in a Pi memorization contest.   I went to the office to file some papers during lunch to meet a deadline, and my principal asked if he could see me. He handed me a copy of a letter and said they weren’t going to renew my contract. He said that because I used the school’s online discipline system for issues like missing work and dress code and other behavioral infractions, that I was being ineffective and was not motivating my kids to do work.   He also said it was because my teammates didn’t think I was ‘happy’ and that I was not a ‘good fit’ for the student population.

Have you ever been told to do something and then gotten in trouble for doing it? Psychologists call it a double-bind. It’s a no-win situation where you are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don’t. Although shocked and blindsided, I realized in those moments that I was fighting a monster far bigger than I was. My crime was following directions, yet for some reason I was getting in trouble for it. I hung my head and cried for a few minutes, and decided that if he was putting me in that position, then I quit. I disagreed with the letter as well as the whole process of the team and assistant principals talking about me behind my back and planning to destroy my career without a benefit of a doubt or any willingness to help me in my perceived weak areas. It was clearly personal and political, and it was a bigger, more sinister monster than I wanted to fight.

Gift:  I walked away with my dignity and integrity knowing I followed directions and worked as hard as I could to be the best math teacher I could be.  I am now able to re-focus my energies on my family and my health and not feel the negative side effects that come from working in a toxic environment.  I know that I forged meaningful relationships with the students and motivated them to work.  If you know me, you know I love math. You know I love science. You know I love kids and teaching.  This negative experience helped me to sharpen my focus and to re-examine my professional philosophies.  It gave me the opportunity to spend time reflecting on the past and how to use past experiences to achieve future dreams.  I will not lower my standards or compromise my integrity for a flawed public school system.  Instead, I will work for myself and focus on teaching math, one-on-one without the interference of a highly politicized work environment.  I do believe that education is the key to success, and that learning never ends.  I still aim to teach kids to love math and to love learning throughout their lives, wherever their strengths may lie.  I am focusing on expanding my private math tutoring business and opening up a website in the future to help kids learn and love math.

Why tell this story?  I want to set the record straight that I quit only because they told me I couldn’t stay.  If any former students or parents are reading this entry, I want to tell them I did not quit on the kids.  I feel that they lost the most in this experience.  All of a sudden I was gone, and they didn’t know why.  I heard from one of my students a few weeks after I left, and she said the administration told my students I quit because I got another job.  I want all the kids and parents to know I did not get another job.  I only left because I couldn’t stay, and I didn’t know how finish the year when I didn’t know what to do day-to-day.   I want them to know it wasn’t because of them; it was because of the staff and administration.  I still believe in the kids, and I still believe in education. I will keep being me and keep doing what I do regardless of whether this particular school wants me or not.  I know who I am – and I know what I’m about, and I won’t let this negative experience destroy me.  I will use it as fuel to for purusing my dreams.  These are all pearls (of wisdom) on a string.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHIr6OmUfqg
Ryan Adams “Pearls on a String”

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!