Little bitty star jasmine in the backyard. Posted by Hello

This is a rose too. I love flowers. Posted by Hello

A rose is a rose Posted by Hello
This week I was handed an article from Newsweek about the provision in the No Child Left Behind Act that requires high schools to provide the names and address of their students to the military.

Don't get me wrong, I am not anti-military. I was in the service. Our military is necessary and it does a good job. The military is NOT a bad career choice as long as one is fully informed. One can learn valuable skills and serve his or her country by signing up for military service.

Over the last several months, several seniors have complained to me about the recruiters who keep calling even after the student says they are not interested and have already chosen their college for next year. The students seem to be disturbed by the actions of the recruiters.

I really didn't think too much about their concerns until I started hearing rumblings that it was because of the provision in the No Child Left Behind Act. Then this article came out.

The long and the short of it is this. Check out Military Free Zone. The site has some good information about what the military can do and has the opt-out form that students and parents can sign and turn in to the school. The owners of the site have an obvious agenda and it doesn't necessarily agree with my own opinions, BUT students aren't told they have an option about getting calls from military recruiters.

Read the information. If you need more information, ask. Make your own INFORMED decision.
Though I really enjoy the simulation (and the students do as well) it wears on me something awful. Playing the role of "The Leader" is much more stressful that I always think it will be. I worry that someone will take it too seriously and get themselves into some sort of trouble (i.e. breaking into my classroom...okay, it was by accident and all they did was overturn the desks and post propaganda). I worry that someone will be psychologically damaged by something that I say during the simulation (i.e. Me: So you are a member of a revolutionary group? She: I didn't say that. Me: But you admitted knowledge. She: Yes, I know who is involved. Me: Yet you did not inform the State of this traitorous act? She: Well, I wasn't sure.... Me: So you're a traitor. She: No!). The conversations go on and on as the students trip over their own stories.This year's simulation went surprisingly well. We had some outstanding players and some very sneaky players as well. As the years go by the students get more and more creative. I think my favorite story this year is from the banner-hangers and the desk-turner. In the dark of night the banner-hangers returned to school, climbed on TOP of my portable and began hanging their 2'x20' banner. While working diligently, they noticed a car driving up. To their horror the car stopped by the classroom and someone got out. Banner-hangers quickly flattened themselves onto the roof so as not to be seen. Desk-turner approached the room and began posting anti-State propaganda when he discovered, much to his surprise that the window to the classroom had not be securely fastened. He opened the window, climbed through, and using only flashlights began overturning desks and posting additional propaganda. Soon after, he left, but returned shortly after to double-check that the door and windows were securely closed. By this time the banner-hangers were nearly finished. All left without seeing each other, but, unbeknownst to them a SPY was on the hillside above the school with a video camera watching the whole thing. I have the photos to prove it.The simulation is all in good fun, but I do check to make sure that the students understand what exactly they were doing. They did. S understood that his friends would "die" (lose their points) if he didn't give up the names of the traitors. Tough lesson, but he got it. B learned that in a coup it might be best to do nothing lest one come out on the losing side and end up losing his or her "life" (points). S, M, S,C, and others learned that the State can be capricious. Overall, I believe that my students do begin to get an understanding of life in a totalitarian state within the controlled environment of the classroom (sometimes, I'm not quite sure how controlled it really is).It seems that this year most students felt positive about the experience once it was over. This is a change from previous years. Some liked the discipline. Some liked the challenge. All seemed to like overthrowing "the Leader" and installing a free and democratic society.

Thomas the Goat, Head of Production, Thomas the Goat Films Posted by Hello

What a life. Snoozing in the sun on a warm, sunny day. Posted by Hello
I've been hearing about blogs for quite some time, but never thought they were for me. Too public, I thought. Too Gen X or Y or wherever we are now (in other words, I'm too old for blogging). It's growing on me though. And that brings me to my next entry....

I am frustrated. I am concerned about the state of history and social science education in my district and in the state of California. Rightfully, my school district is concerned about student achievement, but I believe it is going in the wrong direction.

Beginning in the fall of '05, all secondary English teachers will be using a scripted program. Students will no longer be ALLOWED to read novels in their English classes because the scripted program doesn't have them. This doesn't make sense to me. Novels actually help my students understand the historical period we are studying. No longer will my students be reading stories of the period we are discussing in history class.Beginning in the fall of '05 many of the middle schools in my district will shuffle underachieving students to double math and double english classes in an attempt to improve achievement. Students will also take PE. Their last class will be split between one semester of science and one semester of history.

With test scores being so important to schools and districts nowadays, I find it difficult to understand the thinking of the powers that be. The 8th grade History CST will, in 2005, count for 7% of the API score for the school. Next year, it will be in the neighborhood of 13%. Apparently, our students are expected to do well on their test with only one semester of history during the 8th grade year. That is unless they get history during the second semester. Then they will have about 10 weeks of history before that all-important test.

I am also concerned with staff development. There are studies that show good history/social science instruction can help improve student achievement. However, in my district, there has been no money put into improving the skills of history/social science teachers in the past four years. Before that, development was limited to teachers in grades K-8. History/Social Science teachers could easily implement reading, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing skills into their curriculum. Many teachers just need help to see where this skill instruction fits into their lessons.I find this to be a frustrating time in history education.

We have much to teach. We have to ready our students for standardized tests. We are expected to hold our students to a high standard. We are not begin given the training or materials with which to help our students reach a high level of achievement. Where does that leave the classroom teacher?

MSNBC - Pro-Gun Group Suggests Teachers Should Be Armed
This teacher says, "I don't think so!" It would begin to look like the Wild West (though I've never heard that teachers in the real "Wild West" had guns in the classroom).
If we want to take better care of our students and recognize problems early, why not:
1. Decrease class size in all high school classrooms. Why not 20 students per class instead of 35 or more?
2. Decrease the maximum number of students per school. How can you get to know kids when you have 5,000 of them in a small space? There is research that backs school sizes of 600-750 for high schools.
3. Reinstate counselors into high schools. How many districts across this country now have "college technicians" or some other group that doesn't offer help of a personal nature?
4. Hold classes around the teen's schedule. In other words, start later in the day. Allow for jobs. Maybe evening classes would be useful for some students. Perhaps it would even be wise to allow some kids to accelerate their graduation when circumstances call for it.