30 May 2012

I don't tell you how to run your job...

Things you need to succeed in today’s job world:
1.     Education
2.     Credentials and Honors
3.     Experience
4.     Evidence of exemplar work
5.     Evidence of expertise
6.     Ability to train and lead

Here are two people’s bios for conferences below:

“How to manage your money” turned into “National Income Tax and Sales Tax Laws”

Carissa Berglund worked for Richfield Bank and Trust as a Customer Service Representative, Insurance Data Manager and as an Information Director.  She later grew to work for M&I Bank out of Milwaukee.  While there she worked with several businesses, both large and small, accumulating records and information to help them prosper.  Most recently, Ms. Berglund founded a tax-exempt business educating young adults on fiscal responsibility.  She developed her own tax plan and works closely with TurboTax and many retail establishments to set budget goals and pay appropriate taxes.  She also worked for schools gaining expertise in  Excel spreadsheets.  She is a National Board Certified Teacher and a graduate student at Elon University. 

“How and what to teach” turned into “National Content Standards for K-12”

David Coleman is a Founding Partner of Student Achievement Partners, a non-profit  organization that assembles leading thinkers and researchers to design actions to substantially improve student achievement. Most recently, Mr. Coleman and Jason Zimba of Student Achievement Partners played a lead role in developing the Common Core State Standards in math and literacy. Mr. Coleman and Jason Zimba also founded the Grow Network – acquired by McGr aw-Hill in 2005 – with the mission of making assessment results truly useful to teachers, school leaders, parents, and students. Mr. Coleman spent five years at McKinsey & Company, where his work focused on health care, financial institutions, and pro bono service to education. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Yale University, Oxford University, and Cambridge University.

Both are full of a lot of BS, but what I would like to gain is what do the actual successes have to do with what they are touting. 

Let’s see how they stack up for the top 6 things for success:
I was a math major in college, so I know all about numbers, figures and data (1).  I attend a private university that is highly ranked for my masters.  I am also a National Board Certified Teacher in high school mathematics which means that I am smart and good at what I do…which let’s be honest, is everything I touch (2).   I worked at a bank for two years, part-time in the summer counts as real work, right (3)?  I have done my own taxes for 5 years, without any audits or hiccups, thank you 1040EZ and Turbo Tax (4).  I have a mortgage, a car payment and multiple, non-maxed out or paid off credit cards, so I know about budgets (5).  I understand APR and percentages and have bought things “same as cash” and not. So I realize where people could get confused (6).    

I believe the national economic crisis is devastating and because of the six points I listed I believe that I have the knowledge and knowhow on how to fix it.  I will be outlining national standards for banks and credit cards to follow, as well as creating state tax laws at a national standard.  I will provide incentives for states that adopt my budget ideas, such as provide them with financial money to educate the public and open new institutions.  

Now I don’t know about you, but my Dads are freaking out right now.  While I swear they are my biggest fans (either, step or bio, they both love me-seriously who wouldn’t) I do know that they would prefer me to stay far away from their savings accounts.  I feel the same way as you may about me running your banks, when “you” (the collective, societal “you”) talk about how education should be.  Just because I pay taxes doesn’t mean I’m a tax expert, just because you went to school, doesn’t make you a public school genius. 

Did you know that 45 states have adopted new standards for their literacy and math standards?  Aligning the curriculum nationally is a hope to streamline education and focus on “career and college” readiness to make our students applicable to a global market.  There are content changes for NC, for example graphs move from 7th grade math to 6th grade math, and instead of teaching whole novel texts to a class, discussion goes more in depth into passages.  There are also mind shifts, such as fluency and focus.  The more fluent you are with calculations and reading the better you will be at binomial expansion and Shakespeare.  There is also a need to narrow the focus on what you teach to standards, and dig deep for standards, not skim the water.  While fluency helps focus, there is also a fundamental need for utilizing the resources that surround us.  If a calculator helps, use it.  If spell check helps, use it.  The school I will be working at in Bahrain has adopted the AERO Standards which for high school are the same as Common Core.  This is a HUGE benefit for me when I come back.

Sounds like I really like the idea of these national standards right?  Well I am an excellent bull shitter.  Remember my fiscally responsible self?  Let me show you the parallels for David Coleman, co-author and lead “architect” of the new Common Core State Standards. 

David Coleman graduated from Yale with a degree in literature, so he knows all about literacy (1).  While there he worked with underprivileged youth tutoring them afterschool, which is obviously the same as teaching them full time (3).  From Yale he became a Rhodes Scholar for classical literature and founded an educational assessment group, so he must be good at everything he does too (2).  His educational businesses did well and while the school he is on the board of did not excel, they didn’t have any scandals either (4).  He has founded a group called Student Achievement Parntership which focuses on assessments and their outcomes, so he knows about testing (5).  He also realizes that our students are not pusehed hard enough for complex texts and need more rigor; which he can define rigor and complex so he knows what he is talking about (6). 

Therefore this man has decided to partner with a bunch of people who obviously know more than I do to rewrite education, similar to me revamping state tax and money laws.  You can see the list of people at Achievethecore.org where the word “taught” is only mentioned 4 times and the word “teacher(s)” is only mentioned 10 times, only one of which references K-12 teaching, for an 11 person biography. 

Its not that the standards are a bad idea.  Its not that David Coleman et al are uninformed know-it-alls.  It is the fact that states were paid money to adopt these standards that were not teacher created, or reviewed.  Get in the trenches.  Teach, 30 kids for 6 hours a day and be their educator, parent and disciplinarian.  Teach 100 students for 5 hours a day and deal with their hormones, hard content and parents giving up.  One thing I have learned this year is that teachers need advocates.  The principal quickly forgets what it was like to be in the classroom when they deal with discipline all day long.  The central office doesn’t look into the children’s faces when they make policies they expect the teachers to enforce.  The creators of the Common Core State Standards have not witnessed a teacher struggle to teach a class, not because of their desire, or the students, but because of time, pressure and assessments.  You cannot fix education with new standards and focus.  It sounds great in theory, however, having witnessed the initial impact of the CCSS, I can tell you, the mindset isn’t with the teachers, because it is “another change” brought on my philosophers not teachers.  The mindset isn’t with principals because their teachers are overwhelmed and now they must keep transforming their school, continue their current professional development and incur new ones.  Central office hasn’t adopted the change because they are concerned with how it will be assessed.  The same way I am not a financial wizard, just because I can write an awesome biography for myself as one, David Coleman et al are not educational gurus, just because they studied it.  Put it into action, get in the classrooms, put your money (literally) where your mouth is, and show us how it’s done.  Until then, do not speak rhetoric and philosophies that you cannot support. 

**Note: Does not reflect my ability to teach the CCSS-I am looking forward to being in the classroom again

**Double Note: PD talk does not reflect my system alone, but rather the collective system...was always told I over-generalize


15 May 2012

So what’s with all of the names?

I went out to eat with a friend last weekend.  Two young gentlemen came up to us and asked where I went to high school:
“Durham School of the Arts? Why?”
“You look like somebody that went to our school.”
“Well where’d you go?”
“Oh it’s small, Rivermill.”
“Oh yeah, that’s cause I taught there, what’s your name?”
Turns out I taught one of their little sisters, actually saw her cheer quite a few times too.  So then they asked my last name….I told them what it was then and they said they would tell Samantha hi for me.  My friend didn’t say anything.

Well then that week I changed my name on Facebook to a grouping of my friends last names.  I did it, in part, to show my support “against” Amendment One.  (I do not believe that the government has any right to define anyone’s family as being “more real” than anyone elses, no matter the orientation-but that's not what this post is about.)  Well let’s just say the friend from dinner was slightly more confused.  I was asked what was up with all the different last names, so I explained the last couple of years.  Does that ever get easier??  I hope so.  Right now it makes me feel like a failure and embarrassed with too much baggage-I hope I don’t have to pay for all of it to ship to Bahrain or I’m screwed.

So the crazy last name on Facebook was my transition away from an old name.  A name I don’t want to forget, but one that I need to move past.  However, don’t go looking for the return of another name.  Legally, yes, internet-ly, no.  I follow several Bahrain news agencies and reporters online and I have seen people post that they were not allowed in, or kicked out, because of comments they had made regarding the country.  While I am not a political activist, nor would I ever say things to defame a country, I don’t necessarily want them to have full access to me.  My twitter handle is the same but all my names will change to my first and middle name. 

I love my first name because I think, it may be the only thing my parents agreed on, besides the fact that I was and am the best daughter ever (well one of three).  My middle name is a tie to both my mom and dad’s family.  I love my middle name because it is my grandmother’s name.  I grew up staying with Grandma during days in the summer and our trips to Minnehaha Falls, board games, and puzzles were awesome.  My middle name is also my Godmother/Great Aunt’s name.  We spent family reunions at her place and she is amazing.  My mom also loved her so much. 

My name change is mostly to keep me protected, but it’s secondly to start fresh.  Everyone remember the song Laura Bartholomay Childs sang for Spotlight?
“I am Rosemary’s granddaughter,
the spitting image of my father,
and when the day is done, my momma’s still my biggest fan.
I am foolish and I’m clumsy,
But I have friends that love me,
And they know exactly where I stand.
They’re all apart of me,
That’s who I am.”
I don’t know why but it feels right, right now. 

04 May 2012

Things People Say

I was meeting with a parent from one of my schools about next school year.  We were making plans for how I could help her daughter when I realized I wouldn’t be here next year.  We both had an “oh yeah” moment.  Her next comment was “I heard you are moving to Bahrain, is that where you are from?”  I was extremely confused-do I look Arabic or does she know where Bahrain is? 

Speaking of where Bahrain is…most of the feedback that I receive from people centers around Bahrain’s location.  They are so excited for my teaching opportunity; they just wish it wasn’t in Bahrain.  I hear “Can’t you move to Europe?” “Do you know that there are protests?” “WHY?” but the best thing I’ve heard is “You are adventurous and love a challenge”….I’m adventurous?  Who knew?

This past weekend I had a brief, but very intriguing conversation with a person I met last summer.  We knew each other through mutual friends and had gotten pretty close, but due to time, conflicts and locations hadn’t spoken in a few months.  They messaged me to say “good luck” with my new job.  It was interesting to talk about things (they worked international) and my favorite part was that they had all positive things to say.  The last comment was “you are adventurous and love a challenge”.  I literally have known this person for a few months…this shows me I either over-share (hence the blog title T.M.I.) or I really do seem adventurous, huh.  This person literally made my night.  Thank you. 

I have been so blessed this past year.  I have met more people who have challenged me, enlightened me and just plain old made me happy.  I am a firm believer that people come into your life when you need them.  Some stick around because you need them longer, some help you for the time you need them, or you are with them when they need you.  I do not expect everyone I meet to be a “lifer” but those life long relationships are the best.  However I think you need to appreciate the short-term ones too.  Whether it is a couple months, a year or two or a decade, people need you, and you need people.  I need the parents and teachers that I have met this year.  The parents that are excited about my move, even if are unsure of where I’m moving, and to friends who say the right thing at the right time, when you need it the most, make each day better.  The friends you call at midnight because you need to cry and the ones that take your stress away after a long week.  Never discount anyone, for whether they are in your life for a few minutes or a few years, they can make your world a better place.