Saturday, September 6, 2014

No One Has Come

In 1963 I became a student at Holiday Park Elementary School in the Cartwright School District and one year later my brother, Brad, also, became a student. This might not seem too amazing to my readers but what was amazing is that my brother and I shouldn’t have been allowed to attend school because at that time children with disabilities were not allowed to attend public school. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142) that required public schools to give ALL students equal access to a free and public education wasn’t enacted until 1975.

When I entered school in 1963 my physical disability wasn’t noticeable at the time. When my mother registered my brother, who was in a wheelchair, the next year the principal of the school, Bob Smith, hesitated to allow Brad to attend. My mother explained that his disability kept him from walking but not from thinking and she further explained that I had been attending the school for a year already and I had the same disability as Brad.  Miraculously, Mr. Smith allowed both of us to continue to attend. Many may not understand the precedent this man set but it is phenomenal! Throughout my public education I always saw other handicapped children besides my brother attending school and didn’t think anything about it. I thought everyone was allowed to attend public school. But what I failed to know is that handicapped children were NOT attending public school anywhere else in the city or state. 

My brother and I wouldn’t have attended college, if we hadn’t had a public school education because at that time educational facilities for the handicapped were teaching life skills not skills that made one college ready.

I graduated from Trevor Browne High School in 1974 and The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was still one year away. If not for the forward thinking of the leaders of the Cartwright School District in 1963, I would not have graduated from Arizona State University with a teaching degree. I applied to be a teacher in the Cartwright School District because I knew that the Cartwright School District would never wait to be told to do what is right for children and I wanted to be a part of that forward thinking.

This is my thirty-seventh year of teaching in the Cartwright School District. I have taught many different grade levels and have held many different positions throughout my career. I have taught at Holiday Park, Peralta, Tomahawk and now Borman. I came to Borman last year for many reasons: My dear friend, Norma Jauregui, asked me, I felt like I was getting myself in a rut and I needed to stir things up, I wanted to team teach with Colleen, I wanted to gender split and I wanted to make a difference.

Borman is a struggling school. We have a C rating almost a B but almost only counts in horseshoes. When Colleen and I made the decision to come to Borman, many asked with a confused look on their faces, “Why?” I had a friend who is now a substitute once ask me, “Did you come to Borman because you wanted to or because you had to?”

I want the world to know that I came to Borman because I WANTED TO COME TO BORMAN. When I visited Borman and taught Saturday School at Borman while I was making my decision, I saw a light in the eyes of administration and staff that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I saw a dedication to excellence. I saw a new love for children. I saw in the administration and staff a group of leaders that would do what is right for students without being told. I made the decision to teach at Frank Borman Elementary School and there hasn’t been a single second that I have regretted that decision.

The 2014-15 school year Borman started with ten unfilled positions: one eighth grade, four seventh grades, one fourth grade, one part time music, one part time art, one ISS and one math interventionist. Since then one position, part time art has been filled, also, a fifth grade teacher recently resigned and the reading interventionist for the upper grades has been “subbing” for one of the unfilled seventh grade positions.

As many already know, I am not one to keep my mouth shut. I should because it gets me into so much trouble when I open it. I have had to face some difficult consequences for opening my mouth and speaking out. This time, I have tried to press my lips tightly together, shake my head and smile but I can’t do it anymore.

We have been given permanent subs (OXYMORON). We have subs that have been asked to teach curriculum that is way beyond their scope of understanding. This is through no fault of the substitutes. How could anyone expect someone that has taught first grade his or her entire career to “permanently” teach in an upper grade classroom? Substitutes are not expected to write lesson plans. Substitutes are not expected to participate in team meetings. Substitutes are not expected to stay for classroom management professional development. Substitutes are not expected to put grades in the grade book, common assessment grades on the Google docs, give mid term grades or do quarterly progress monitor. Whose hands do these responsibilities fall into? You guessed right!

To many of my readers that are fellow teachers at other schools in the Cartwright School District, I am not writing this to get sympathy or assistance. I have the greatest respect for and faith in the teachers and administration of Borman. I know we will work together and quietly get the job done. (Well . . . not everyone will do it quietly. Again, this is a problem I have.)

I am shouting out to the leadership of Cartwright School District. We at Borman K-8 Elementary School feel forgotten by you. It would be nice, if just one person in district leadership would come and say, “We know what you are dealing with. We are not thinking, ‘ahhhhh, it’s just Borman, who cares?’  We are doing everything we can to fix this. And we want to thank you and we are sorry."

Thank you to the PE. teachers that can’t teach their curriculum because they have taken on the extra special class positions.

Thank you to the teachers that spend hours on the weekends writing lesson plans for the substitutes.

Thank you to the teachers that spend their prep time prepping for substitutes.

Thank you to the Borman administration that has spent countless hours monitoring unfilled classes behavior management.

Thank you to the teachers that have had five to ten extra students from different grade levels in their classrooms daily.

Thank you to the teachers that put in all the extra hours to do all the work that substitutes are not expected to do.

Thank you to the grade levels that know they have the numbers to get another teacher but don’t ask because they know there is no way it is going to happen.

Parents and students of Borman, we are sorry that we are not providing the educational opportunities to the students of Borman that we are to other schools in the Cartwright School District and we will fix this!

It is time for the Cartwright School District leaders to come. The leaders that I have always respected since 1963 because they have always been on the forefront of doing what is right for children. It is time to come to say thank you. It is time to come and say we are sorry to the parents and students. It is time to come to listen and understand. It is time to come to explain.

But, no one has come!

Paco’s Perspective

#1 You never learn your lesson do you, Miss Shout Out?

#2 I can teach twirling and grout licking, if you need me.

The Flip Side

#1 I can teach lizard chasing and rabbit scaring.

#2  . . . Uhhhhh . . . I forgot what #2 was . . . . .


Monday, September 1, 2014

Oh, Boy! Oh, Boy!

As many of my readers know, I team teach and my partner and I gender split our two classes. One needs to know there is nothing like a drama filled class of 40 girls unless it is an extremely stinky class of 34 boys. Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Adolescent boys are stinky.

The worst part about being in a room of stinky boys is the smell percolates throughout the day like a coffee pot. And the one person in the room that doesn’t smell gets used to the smell and doesn’t realize how bad it is until one steps out of the room and comes back. A room full of adolescent males in the late afternoon after P.E. and lunch recess punches me in the face like a knockout right hook. Then it permeates into my nostrils and sets up a campsite where it stays for a long time and eviction is impossible.

Many of you that have teenage boys or have ever been a teenage boy know what I mean. Think of the worst teenage boy smell: your older brother’s room, that your mother refuses to go into and clean, filled with piles of discarded sweaty sock, pants, and underwear that could probably walk to laundry room on their own if your mother allowed your brother’s bedroom door to stay open, your son’s football bag that houses his “lucky” underwear that he refuses to let you wash it until his first loss or the season’s end, or your dog after he has played in the irrigation ditch. Put those smells together in a room that was designed to hold 25 students but has been crammed full with 35 to 40 students and you know what I experience daily.

When we switch classes and the girls enter, inevitably, one of them will say, “Miss Cunningham, it smells funny in here. It smells like . . . . like . . . “

“Boy?” I reply.

“Yes, boy! Like my brother’s dirty bedroom.”

“Or when my brother forces me to smell his armpits!”

“Yes, ladies, you’ve got it. This room smells like . . .like . . . “

“BOY!” they reply in unison.

The other day I had the opportunity to smell something worse than boy. I had some boys that owed me lunch and recess. They are expected to go get their lunch and bring it to the classroom on their own. Three boys hadn’t shown up when I expected them to so I decided I would go and get them and bring them back to the room and let them have it.

When I left my building to go to the cafeteria it was sprinkling. When I found the culprits and started to take them to the room when we opened the door there was a deluge of rain pouring from the heavens. It wasn’t just raining cats and dogs it was raining elephants and giraffes. I figured if we stayed in the cafeteria it would stop in a few minutes and we could get to the classroom with no worries.

Well, twenty minutes later, my teaching partner showed up drenched because it was time to pick up the students from the cafeteria. We can’t stay in the cafeteria because others need our seats, so we lined them up and walked the hundred yards to the classroom. It felt like we walked a mile. It was raining so hard I had to take my glasses off so I could see, if I was going to trip over the elephants it was raining. When we made it to the room my skirt was two feet longer from the weight of the amount of rain it soaked up. The boys were so wet I had to let them take off their shoes and socks so that maybe their feet might dry. It was bad!

Let me tell you there is no smell worse than BOY unless it is WET BOY!

Paco’s Perspective

A smell worse than the smell of a classroom full of wet boy might be the smell of a cafeteria full of wet kid!

The Flip Side

All I can smell is LIZARD!