What More Politics – Why Trump is Good for the Country

Disclaimer

This is mostly an education blog, but education is a subversive activity,

Book Cover

I really should read this book one day

so I’m stuck talking politics a lot lately. There is much injustice in the world and for me the big injustice is the lack of resources we give to education. Both in the underserved school district where I work and in general. While I would love it if the military had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber,

text quote

Maybe Robert Fulgram or maybe just a random PTA mom

I’ll be satisfied if I worked in a school where I didn’t have the nagging worry of asbestos in the floor tiles. With all that said here is my political piece for the day.

Why Trump is good for the country.

If Clinton had won, we would be stuck in another 4 years of obstructionism, with fake concerns about how there might or might not be voter fraud which lead to disenfranchisement. The slow grind towards civil rights would wear down even the most ardent supporters. And in the end little or nothing would actually change. With Clinton’s loss however, the liberal voters have sent a clear message. “We are sick and tired of Republican lite candidates.”

Of course the Washington Democrats aren’t listening. It will be a long four years.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mrs. Clinton. I think she is one of the smartest people on the planet. I think she cares deeply for the vulnerable. I think she would have been a president we could all be proud of. But in the end she was working within the system. And for some reason we want the system to be torn down.

Maybe it is because for eight years the GOP has obstructed progress and they only grew in power,. Maybe it is because we finally realize that there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator (even if it comes in the form of a democratically elected congress). Maybe, it is because promises have been made and none of them kept. It doesn’t matter, what is done is done and we are left to pick up the pieces.

Facing prospects such as an EPA that may not exist in four years, an energy policy that wants to go backwards, and a school system that may be sold to the highest bidder (think vulture capitalists breaking up a large company). One might be tempted to think progressives have lost. You would be wrong.

Instead of dragging an unwilling population, kicking and screaming, into modern society we get to define what a modern society is and is not willing to accept. We will not drag others we will simply go there and stand our ground.

The alt-right can mass thousands of trolls online to fight, smear, put down, and even dox good people. The left can motivate millions of people to actually stand up and take action. And what do those actions say:

We are setting the agenda for our future.

All people are created equal – this basic tenant about America has a capital ALL. Not just white property holders, not just men, not just anything. ALL and they can vote, hold jobs, buy cake, etc…

Privacy is important – Governments and corporations cannot have access to us or our metadata without asking first. The net is neutral, Comcast and ATT do not get to decide to charge more for Netflix.

Truth – There is a difference between news and propaganda and we will need to define that line.

Social Welfare – Do we really care about our children and elders? How much are we willing to actually do for them? How much will that cost?

The American Dream – Is it to become rich or is it to become free? Money is not God – The definition of success is not measured in dollars. Who is allowed to dream that dream?

This and more, we will spend the next fours years leading America towards greatness. Or we might all burn in a nuclear annihilation. Either way, it’s a step up from the current administration policies.

 

 

Writing Curriculum

I’ve been off for two weeks. By off I mean I’ve been at home writing curriculum for third quarter. Except this week I’ve been spending 4-6 hours a day in the classroom.

Man I love these long winter breaks we teachers get. I get so much done.

I’ve come to realize I suck at writing curriculum. I don’t like it, it is no fun and in the end it often looks too much like a textbook.

angle grinder and work glove

I wish my day were this easy

If you read my earlier post this year I had grand plans on going PBL. Then reality hit. I have middle school students, they don’t want to actually work.

Well that is a copout they want to work, they just don’t want to work on the things I want them to work on. I’ve never seen so many kids work so hard to avoid work in my life.

Then there is all the work they put in towards hiding their phones and sneaking in games on the computer when my back is turned. Oh and throwing  pencils. That was a thing this year. 300 golf pencils this year wasted.

students texting

What I’m using the calculator

We’ve had more trouble than you can shake a stick at in the building this year. a new principal, messed up scheduling, toooooo much drama even for middle school, and life in general.

total drama all stars

I’m head the Technology Committee, which has kind of drifted for the past few months so I have to get that back on track. I’m also on the Building Leadership Team, which has been working hard to right the ship which is the school. I’m was also part of the Scheduling Committee.

I never knew you could spend so much time on a schedule, but it was really enlightening. Who knew a scheduling expert was needed, but I’m glad we hired him. Lots of opportunity to make the school equitable for all.

Anyway, long story short we have reset the school. I’m reenergized and ready to teach 3rd quarter. I wasn’t so sure I’d be ready at the beginning of break, I was pretty low, but I’ve got a new plan for engaging students. It may not be PBL, but it will include student choice and hopefully some students will choose the projects.

 

Protesting is Protected by the Constitution

I spent a bit of time watching a protest march in Los Angeles Saturday. It wasn’t violent, they weren’t demanding a change in the election results (but I’m sure many would be pleased if the Electoral College refused to vote for Trump based on his lack of qualifications for the job), they weren’t really demanding anything specific, they were just venting their anger.

I don’t really have many Republican friends (funny because I was a Republican precinct committeeman for 4 years), but the few I have share memes and don’t really explain in a coherent way what they want. She’s a crook and he isn’t, which is just ludicrous to me. (Yes, I listened to every argument and as close as I could come is she let the ends justify the means. A highway to hell certainly, but transparency is something specific to demand and measure.).

I get that many Americans are angry, I’m angry, but most people also claimed to be a friend of the LGBTQ community, non-violent, and non-racist. So I just don’t get how so many voted for a man who advocated violence, racism, and anti-gay policies. Yeah, I saw the video of his speech where he said he was a friend to the LGBTQ community “believe me” and people of color weren’t getting any help from the democrats so what have you got to lose, but actions speak louder than words. (SNL taught me not to be surprised at the level of racism in this country).

I guess I don’t get why people turned to the Republican party at all. Ok the Democratic party hasn’t actually followed through on their promises, but at least they had workable promises. All those old good paying jobs with low entry barriers, they aren’t coming back. We can start a trade war with China and Mexico, but those jobs still aren’t coming back. At best we will build robots to bring those jobs back. (I don’t think robot designer is a job for a high school diploma). Steel, coal, those jobs are on a downward trend and nothing we do will ever change that, time to retool and find something new. (The real whiners aren’t millennials looking for a safe space, they are laid off workers looking for a job as easy and high paying as the one they used to have. Your boss is a business person he won’t pay more until you prove you are worth more).

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have jobs that pay well, we should (fight for $15 and all). The problem is most of those jobs wont be in manufacturing. When you complain about a high paying manufacturing job being sent to non-union Mexico on the one hand and then tell us that a McDonald’s employee doesn’t deserve $15 an hour, you are contradicting yourself. I guarantee you the CEO of General Motors didn’t think it was worth paying a union employee $60,000 a year to tighten a bolt over and over everyday.

Do you want America to be great again? Join a union (don’t complain about the dues), work for equality in treatment and wages. Demand that every full-time job require full-time pay. Demand universal healthcare. Demand equality for all. Stop whining about the past and build the future.

 

Coming Together

I have spent 8 years watching Republicans refuse to accept defeat. I’ve seen them stop the entire federal government twice. I’ve seen them refuse to accept nominations for the judicial branch of government, they didn’t argue against them, they just up and ignored their duty.

I’ve watched as they attacked and attempted to humiliate their opponents just for the sake of attack and vilification. and I have to say I’m pretty tired of it. I’ve been tired of it for a long time. It’s why I stopped being a Republican.

I’m all for smaller more efficient government, but there should be a government.
I’m all for encouraging business to start and grow, but I’m not willing to do it for them.
I’m all for the rights as defined in the constitution, but I also believe your right to swing a fist ends at my face.

I’m also for “We the People”, I believe everyone is equal. I believe in giving a hand up because I’ve seen the world crush good hard-working people without a second thought.

So now after eight years of obstruction and attack the anti-establishment insider finally wins. Not really a win because a majority of the people want the other candidate, but an electoral college win.

I know what is coming. We won, we have a mandate, you have to listen to us. Well no, you didn’t listen to me I don’t have to listen to you.but I won’t play that game. I won’t advocate the intentional hurt of America just for political gain.

I will however throw the ball into your lap. You think you have won, then act like a winner. reach out to me.

Your ideas are better? Stop trying to ram them down my throat and convince me. And be real about it. I’ve seen your ideals in action before, our country went from a budget surplus and peace to two wars and the Great Recession. So your conviction had better be able to explain how it will be different this time.

You almost destroyed the country last time and I’m afraid you will finish the job this time.

Are you one of the good guys

I’ve been kind of elevated to team leader in 7th grade. I am the teacher with the most experience, though I would argue not the best teacher. However, my experience and my experiences as a connected educator do give me some insights that I think my colleagues appreciate.

The Matrix of Leadership

The Matrix of Leadership

As a consequence of my new power rush, when I’m walking the halls I feel the need to act like what most of us think an administrator should act like. You know what I mean. “Hey you where’s your pass?” “Stop running.” “No, shouting!” (Yes, the last one is usually yelled and I do see the irony).

man shouting I have a problem with authority

Last year these kids were like herding cats. Always going to the bathroom and hanging out during class, sneaking from one bathroom to the other when security came around, then to the nurse’s office, etc…. I didn’t really like subbing for the admin in the 6th grade hall last year. It was exhausting.

I noticed  when accosting these students in the hall that they immediately got defensive and turned away. Then I realized that it was my actions that were causing this behavior.

I was assuming they were not supposed to be in the halls. I was assuming they were in the wrong. But it was my own suggestion that created this.

See, I don’t believe in limiting bathroom passes. I believe in making the classroom a place that students want to be. I believe in reducing the amount of teacher lecture so that if they have to step out for a minute or two they aren’t missing a lesson, they are shortening the amount of time they have to do the work of learning. All of the teachers in my hall treat students the same way.

Right now through the 4 periods I teach I have about 20 kids going to the bathroom and most of those in just two periods. Way too many, but what is the root cause? Is it teenage restlessness or boredom, or taking advantage of me? Could be a combination of all three. The thing is, they aren’t breaking the bathroom and as long as I am not fighting the stream (pun intended) of people going to the bathroom, it will soon stop.

Now as for accosting students in the hall. I’ve stopped. Instead of a curt, “Where is your pass?” I try a more friendly hello. Students respond better, and the couple of extra seconds allows me time to see that most of the time they are actually carrying a pass. Those that aren’t, they usually run and I let security chase them.

I can write a referral if they are doing anything seriously wrong. It’s a lot easier on me and better in the long run, because there is more of a paper trail, the life’s blood of the school discipline system.

School Funding

Public schools are supposed to provide a free and appropriate public education. (ed.gov, My previous post). I suppose technically this only applies to students with disabilities, but don’t we all expect public school to be free?

It isn’t of course.We pay taxes. I also spend a bit over $100 for each of my kids to go to school and several hundred more so they can participate in the arts, band and choir, etc… I do kind of resent this extra expense, but not too much. As you see if you read my earlier post, the government doesn’t actually believe they have to provide the best education possible, just an appropriate education.

A couple of hundred dollars in fees doesn’t seem too unreasonable, especially when many of these fees are waived if you are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs. What gets me is the other sources of non-governmental funding.

In the district I live in we have a PTO that raised over $50,000 for the district. We also have an educational foundation that raises on average about $10,000 a year. We are smaller and solidly middle class district. I wonder how much the wealthier districts raise for their schools?

I’m not going to do all the research, I’m not a journalist, but a quick google search shows more than one foundation raising money in one of the wealthiest districts in the state. Think about that for a second. If my little district is raising more money than I earn in a year in donations, how much do two foundations and a PTO raise in a larger and wealthier district?

The state of Illinois funds schools through property taxes, which is unequal because the districts with the bigger houses and less dense populations pay more property taxes per student. The state and federal government attempts to even things out a bit by giving more aid to poorer districts. Even then we have some districts spending less than $9,000 per student while others spend upwards of $20,000 per student. But that is just the public money, I don’t think they are counting these private donations.

My question isn’t about the inequity of it all. My question is why? Why are we raising and donating huge sums of money for a public good that should be fully funded by our government? Isn’t it good for the country as a whole to have well educated children, ready to change the world? Why are we leaving it to chance?

We shouldn’t hope to get enough donations to fund our schools properly, we should guarantee it. Or maybe I’m wrong, let me know.

School Supplies

I hate school supplies. What happened to, ‘bring pencils, folders, and notebooks for each class’? Sure a trapper keeper or 5 subject notebooks might be nice for some kids, but is it required? Is it required that every single student in your class get exactly the same thing?

What about student choice?

I get the idea we want all students ready for school with the supplies necessary to succeed. And there are definitely better and worse ways to get organized. Do we have to do it for the kids?

 

There might also be some inequity as Bobby shows off the gold-plated trapper keeper thingie, and Carl has nothing. Do we fix it by making everyone buy the exact same thing?

At the school my sons go to there is an exact list and we definitely felt some pressure to fill it all out before the start of school. With parents encouraged to visit school for the “Drop and Run”. I thought it was a great way to meet teachers informally, but my wife felt the shame of not having bought all the right things as we went from class to class. And why does everyone have to bring in two boxes of plastic bags?

Then at the school I work at, there is a school supply list somewhere, that I had no input on. So far one student brought in three boxes of Kleenex and the nonprofit that works with our school gave me a bag with a scrub brush, a box of Kleenex, some staples, and a roll of paper towels. What message did that send to me?

Setting Goals

One of the big keys to success to this year is to teach students how to set their own goals. If they can set a strong specific daily goal then they should be able to direct their own learning.

Yesterday I did an overview of the class and the student and teacher roles. I tried to emphasize that basically our roles are now reversed. They will set a goal each day and I will conference with students at least once a week. So traditionally the student role (which they wrote down) is to listen and learn from the teacher. while the teacher determine what is being taught. However, in this class the student tell me what they are learning and I listen carefully so that I can give them the support they need to be successful.

Each day my students will have to come in the classroom and write a goal on a post it. then at the end of class what they did to reach that goal.

We practiced today. The goals were very broad. Things like learn something new, or be a better student. Not bad goals in themselves, but the lack of specificity will make the goals meaningless.

We practices by setting a goal for the year. At first it was still, be a better student, listen to the teacher, but as I went around the room and spoke to each student or table we started to get more specific.

Now we have goals like: straight A’s or come to school with a positive attitude. Further we have specific actions we can take to reach those goals. Do homework everyday for 30 minutes. Read one book a week, smile at 10 people.

I think we are almost ready to set daily goals. For now here is my goal.

Personal Education Dedication Statement

This Year in Teaching

I can stand in front of a classroom all day long and teach. I’m actually pretty good at that. I explain well, I have a deep understanding of my subject so when half formed questions come up I can usually see where they are coming from, but this is not the way I teach. This method of teaching meets the needs of students like me, but I don’t teach students like me. Most people at the age of 13 don’t want to sit and take notes from a teacher. they want to talk, move, text, snap, whatever, anything except sit and take notes.

I won’t try to incorporate all that into my teaching. That would be forced. What I will do is to allow students to take more responsibility for learning. For me this means projects. I’m calling what I am doing this year project based learning, but it isn’t quite fully that. We have one project for each unit, but they are not always natural teachers of the content.

For example the first project will be rewriting a song so that the lyrics teach operations on rational numbers. The project, could be more natural if we asked the student to explore sound frequencies, but I am not going for pure project based learning, I’m going for standards based learning.

I know studying song lyrics won’t teach anything about operations on rational numbers, but writing the lyrics correctly will. Maybe it isn’t project based learning right away, maybe call it project based assessment except that the project will be given first and students can choose to learn from me or through other resources until they feel confident enough to finish the project (or test if they prefer that sort of assessment).

The organization of each unit is pretty simple. (and I use the word unit loosely as we mostly group units by strand of mathematics) Introduce the CCSS standards, walk students through how I make standards into objectives, have students break the objectives into learning targets through the questions they have. (a KWL chart) Next introduce the project and show how it meets the objectives. Show students resources we have that will allow them to learn the target skills  necessary to meet the objectives and allow them to choose how and when to learn those skills. (Still individualized learning and not personalized (or vice versa I always get those confused), but giving a lot of voice to the students).

The important thing is the student choice. They don’t actually have to do the project. They can learn all the skills from me and then take a test, they can learn all the skills, from another resource such as Khan Academy or CK12 and take a test. They can learn on their own and then do the project. They can learn on their own and then do a project of their own choosing. It doesn’t matter as long as they check in with me at least weekly and are working towards the goal as measured by mastering learning targets.

We will see how this shift in learning goes. Oh and did I mention we are also going 1 to 1 and shifting towards Standards Based Grading? I actually don’t think I could do this without those two elements, but first things first changing the culture of the classroom. No more work turned in for a grade, instead steady feedback on a long-term project.

Dear White People

Yes I did watch the movie. Good, but not great in my opinion.

I know I’m white so this may seem a bit strange, but I’m going to try to explain people of color. I’m not the expert, but I hope that my being white helps people to understand.

I’m not claiming I am or ever have been a victim, or profiled, or anything like that. I don’t even have a lot of friends who are people of color, some co-workers, and Facebook friends, but not people I hang out with. Of course being an introvert I don’t really hang out with anyone, but my own kids.

What I do have is a desire to listen and learn. I listen as my friends speak at work, I read, a lot, Facebook posts, articles, books, etc…. I don’t blame, I don’t make excuses. So this is what I see.

Yes, racism is alive and well in America, thanks for asking. I’m a little racist. It’s true, I took that Harvard test and was disappointed in my results. But not really surprised. I grew up in a white middle class suburb and for the most part I have lived in one my entire life.

I also travel a lot, or at least I did when I was younger. I stayed up all night with strangers from foreign countries. I once even had coffee with 5 guys and we had to translate everything said not once but twice because 3 guys spoke Czech, 1 spoke only German, and I spoke only English.  I learned my white middle class American culture was not the only one, not the best, and not always the default.

Don’t get me wrong. I like my culture. I’m proud of it. It is just important for me to realize that when we talk about American culture I am the default. I am the guy people assume we are talking about in movies, newspapers, nightly news, on the Internet. When anyone speaks of Americans without any specification, they are talking about a guy like me. Though perhaps I am aged out of the default population now.

Being the default you might assume that I would get offended when people of color tell me there is systematic racism in America. Or basically I’m the problem. Except that while I am the typical American, I know I am not America. Not all black people are thugs, not all cops are murderers, not all white people are racist. I may be the average white, middle class, Christian American, but I am also an individual.

My responsibility, when someone of color says there is systematic racism, is to accept that fact. Sure if some fictional black guy, says the world is against me because I’m black, that doesn’t mean anything. When he says, “my dad had the talk with me about looking non-threatening when pulled over by the police.” I have to realize that his life is different than mine. I cannot discount his words because my experiences are different.

I think that is the hurdle most people seem to trip on. Their experiences are different. When I get pulled over I pull out my license and insurance then hold them in my hands on top of my steering wheel. In plain view. Three out of the last four times I was pulled over I received a warning. The timeline for this was a span of over 12 years. Not 52 times in just a few years. My responsibility is to accept that life and my experience are different. I will have to judge others by their words and experiences not my own.

My responsibility is to accept the fact that I sometimes have an unconscious bias and to stop denying it, especially when someone points it out. I need to take a critical look at myself and my actions and probably make some changes.

My responsibility is to stop holding my tongue when friends say or do something with bias. Not just racist memes, but unconscious attitudes and behaviors.

My responsibility is to find that area of my life where I can support change and do it. Real actions, not just write a congressman or share a #blacklivesmatter meme. As a teachers I give my students of color a voice in my room. I try to listen and implement their ideas while at the same time asking them to think critically and be accountable for following up. This is high standards, not that crap with tests.

My responsibility is to grow as a person.

My responsibility is to allow everyone their equality, and not complain that it is infringing on mine, because it isn’t.

My responsibility is to support not fight.