Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's A God Thing

I only sleep a couple hours a night, so I spend a tremendous amount of time channel surfing and thinking. I get my greatest ideas at 2:07 a. m.. The other night or morning I was surfing and came across a Joan of Arcadia marathon on the Gospel Music Channel. I immediately turned on Tivo because when one is surfing one is always looking for a better wave.

If you are not familiar with Joan of Arcadia you should be. It was a wonderfully insightful T.V. program. It only lasted a couple of seasons, most likely because it was a very insightful show, and it required thinking and reflection. I have found that people don't like to think and reflect, especially, when it comes to T. V. watching. They aren't called couch potatoes for nothing. I digress (a lot), Joan of Arcadia is about a teenager that God talks to and shows himself to her in various personalities. Joan of Arcadia was one of those shows that made you wonder.

I was up very early again (on a Saturday), so I decided to watch Joan of Arcadia, and I am so glad I did. First, I needed something to write about, and I have been racking my brain for some time trying to get an idea. Second, I needed some reflection time. Finally, it was time for a God Thing. I have a tendency to stray from the really important things in life, and every once in a while I need a wake up call. Joan of Arcadia reminded me of some of the truly important things:

Don't ask God why? He doesn't like to answer why questions. Usually when one asks why one doesn't like the answer one was given. Kids don't like to be asked why for two reasons: 1. Most of the time they don't know why, and 2. When a child is asked why it makes them think that their first answer was wrong. Instead of asking God why, I think we need to ask, "What do you need me to do for you?" Instead of asking, "Why do I have to do this?", ask, "What can I do to make this work?"

Have pride in what you do. I don't have a problem with this, as a matter a fact, I think I have too much pride. My reflection on this would be I walk that fine line between pride and conceit. I need to be more humble.

Be a catalyst. I looked up catalyst on and it stated that a catalyst causes an important event. A catalyst is the cause of a chemical reaction. Synonyms for catalyst are: incitation, motivation, stimulant, incentive, and spur. I want to be a catalyst, especially, in the field of education. I want to motivate, incite, and spur. I want to be a catalyst for change. As I was looking up catalyst, negative catalyst popped up. A negative catalyst is an inhibitor of a chemical reaction. A catalyst creates the fire and a negative catalyst stomps it out.

All actions have consequences. I have learned this the hard way. I should think before I speak or write and I don't, and I have lost many a friend because of it. I really need to be careful about that because I don't have that many friends to lose. I am down to about five and that includes my "sistahs", so maybe I should slow up. One of my five friends, always speaks before she thinks. I call her my "open mouth, put in foot" friend, and everything that comes out of her mouth is pure honesty. I appreciate her unadulterated truth even when it stings. I want to think before I act, but sometimes I just don't have the time to tip-toe around people's feelings. I need to be careful about stepping on people's feelings. And I usually am, I step carefully right in the middle of every one.*

Take on others' burdens. Janet and her family did this for me three years ago. I am unable to live alone. I need a caretaker. My mother did it forever. She was a saint and still is. My younger sister, Caren, took on that burden until her husband was transferred out of state. Before and after Caren, I have had some wonderful caretakers and I have had some really bad ones. Janet and her family rescued me after a really bad one who robbed me blind when she moved out. What I am going to say is going to offend many, so turn away, but having me around is like having a pet. You have to make sure that the pet is fed, watered, pottied, and cleaned. You can't go away for the weekend without making sure the pets are taken care of. Janet has always contended that God told her to take me on. One day someone at work was asking Janet why she had me come live with her and her family.(First insight, don't ask why.) Janet replied that the person wouldn't understand. The co-worker continued to probe Janet for her reasoning behind taking on such a burden. Janet just smiled and replied, "It's a God Thing!"

I pray someday that God will talk to me the way he talks to Janet and Joan of Arcadia. In one of the episodes of Joan of Arcadia Joan is mad at God. She yells at him, "You didn't tell me I was suppose to do that." And God replies, "No, Joan, you weren't listening." I need to listen to God more closely because I don't think he is going to call me on my mobile.

I have only watched half of the Joan of Arcadia episodes that I Tivoed. I had to stop and do some work, and instead I stopped and wrote this blog. When I watch the rest of the episodes there just might have to be It's A God Thing, Part 2!

Paco's Perspective

God sent me to you. Didn't you know that, or were you not listening again?

Flip Side

God sent you guys to me, or I would have been roadkill.

* Epossumundas by Colleen Sally

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Stack 'em Deep and Teach 'em Cheap

The state of Arizona is experiencing its worse budget crisis in recent history. The state of Arizona has a three billion dollar deficit. Since, fifty percent of Arizona's budget is spent on education (which happens to be in the bottom five for the amount states spend on education), then the cuts will affect the field of education the greatest.

Every school district in the state has been given a directive to cut a certain amount of money from their budget. The state doesn't want to be pinned as the "bad guy", so it is making the school districts be the "bad guys". For example, in many district all day kindergarten will be discontinued because this is where most districts can make the greatest cut from their budget. When constituents call there local representatives and complain that the state discontinued kindergarten the representatives can say, "Oh, the state didn't do that. It was your school district's choice to cut all day kindergarten." I don't mind if someone screws up, admits it, says, "I'm sorry," and then works to make things better, but I really hate it when someone doesn't have the kahonies to admit to their mistakes. I SMELL A RAT!

Last year, Cartwright School District (whom I happen to work for) had to make a nine million dollar budget reduction, and this year Cartwright has to make a $7.4 million to a $9.8 million cut to the M & O budget. Of course, cuts to the M & O budget involve cuts to the school personnel which includes teachers, principals, secretaries and aides. Aides will be let go, teachers salaries will be cut, teachers will be cut, assistant principals will be cut, class sizes will increase. It is called The Stack 'em Deep and Teach 'em Cheap Theory.

I have always taught upper grades, so I am used to large class sizes. The cut off for grades four and five is 35 students which means in order to get another teacher each class has to be at 37 and one class has to be at 38. New teacher hiring for overloaded classes is generally done only at the beginning of the year. If classes become overloaded after Christmas, it is just too bad. Due to the state budget cuts, class sizes will increase. This means that the count for "regular" size class will be 37 which in turn will mean that classes will have to get to 39 and 40 before getting another teacher, and if the class sizes grow after that magical Christmas date one is up a creek without a paddle. (Primary class sizes, K, 1, 2, and 3 will be 34 and 35.) Stack 'em Deep and Teach 'em Cheap.

There has been a significant amount of research on the impact of class size on the education of children. Over the years there have been many research studies with different filters, but the one thing they all have in common is the results:
  • Reduced class size can be expected to produce increased academic achievement. (Glass and Smith)
  • The major benefits from reduced class size are obtained as the size is reduced below 20 pupils (Glass and Smith)
  • Small classes have the greatest impact when experienced in the early grades. A kindergarten or first grade class of 13 to 17 students is ideal. (Tennessee's STAR Project)
  • For minority students, smaller classes can shrink the achievement gap and lead to reduced grade retention, fewer disciplinary actions, less dropping out, and more college-entrance test taking. (Tennessee's STAR Project)
Two years ago I taught a fifth grade basic ELL (English Language Learner's) class. Most of the students in the class made two to three years progress. Seventy percent of the students Met or Exceeded the grade level standards as measured by the AIMS (Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards). That was somewhat amazing considering 25% of them spoke no English. I would like to say it was because of my magnificent teaching, but the most significant factor was I had a class of 12 students. Prior to the budget cuts it was the state's and Cartwright's belief that ELL students had a better chance of achieving, if the class sizes were kept at a minimal number. They were right. The ELL students made significant gains across the district.

Due to the budget cuts, this year's ELL class size numbers are at 25 and 30, and next year they will be at 35 and 40. Say good-bye to differentiation. Say good-bye individual instruction. Say good-bye to achievement gains. Say hello to Stack 'em Deep and Teach 'em Cheap. Our class rooms have high ceilings I am sure they will find a way to build lofts.

I do understand budget cuts, and I am losing part of my salary because of them, and I am not whining about that. But,the state of Arizona has a tendency to never go back. They continue to cut from the education budget. In my thirty-one years of teaching I have never seen the Arizona State government say, "Oooooooo, we have some extra money. Let's put in education."

Paco's Perspective

I don't talk politics.

The Flip Side

What's politics?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm Getting Off at the Next Revolution

It is that time of year when the stress level is so high you can feel it hanging in the airlike wet sheets on a clothesline. Next week is AIMS(Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards) testing week. For schools and teachers everything is riding on this test. One can feel the pressure sitting heavily on one's shoulders. On top of all this stress and pressure I was extremely ill this week. All I could think of was that song, "Stop the World and Let Me Get Off".

Thinking of that song reminded me of another shtupid moment with my wheelchair. I would think that I would learn from my stupid mistakes. When I got stuck playing hide-and-go-seek with the dog I should have stopped playing hide-and-go-seek with the dog, but I didn't. When my wheelchair was almost totally destroyed climbing a mountain I should have stopped going on trails not suitable for wheelchairs, but I didn't. When I got a giant clip stuck in my mouth I should have stopped trying to open things with my mouth, but I didn't. Apparently, I am a slow learn, or what happens to me is so shtupid that I think it couldn't possibly happen again.

Quite a few years a go when I was much younger I was able to bend over while in my chair and pick things up from the floor. Today I wouldn't even begin to think of leaning in any direction that would get me off center in fear that I would fall. I was at my mom's house watching TV, and I saw the Sunday Funnies on the floor and decided I need to read them. I positioned my wheelchair next to the paper and proceeded to lean over the edge of my chair on the driver button side and reach for the paper. Of course, Shtupid hits the button with her ample bust, and my chair starts to move. I begin to turn in the living room. No problem, I will stop when I run into the footstool. I hit the footstool, pushed it aside, and continued to turn. No problem, I will stop when I hit the coffee table it is heavier than the footstool. I hit the heavy coffee table, pushed it aside, and continued to spin. No problem, I will will definitely stop when I hit the recliner. I hit the recliner, pushed it aside, and continued to spin. BIG PROBLEM! I had pushed all the furniture aside, and I was spinning in the middle of the living room getting more nauseous with each revolution. One might ask, where was my mother? I was wondering the same thing, where is my mother? Perhaps, in Canada!

As I continued to be a merry-go-round, I passed the recliner many times. Maybe on the next revolution I will dive into the recliner. Really, Shtupid you are crippled. You couldn't even pick up a newspaper off the floor without without getting into a predicament, and you actually believe you can hit the recliner? Yes, I do. I passed the recliner three more times sizing up the situation and building up my nerve. This is it I'm getting off this merry-go-round at the next revolution. I passed the footstool. I passed the coffee table and couch. I passed the TV. The recliner was coming into view and I was preparing to make my move.

Then I heard my mother say, "WHAT are you doing?"

"I . . . . . . . am . . . . . . . . . spinning?"

I didn't have to jump. I survived. I have survived many AIMS Testing weeks, and I will survive this one, too. I have survived many illnesses much worse than this, and I will survive this one, too. I am NOT getting off at the next revolution.

Paco's Perspective

What's wrong with spinning?

The Flip Side

Doesn't Paco realize we would get places a lot faster, if he didn't spin?