What one Central teacher needs

In my last post, we talked about the lack of air-conditioning at Central, and via the comments we went over the windows, airflow, and whether it is worth it to drop $800k for 10 days out of the year.

 

Recently, I heard back from one of the teachers who was nice enough to answer my question “What do you need?” Below are the responses – I think these three items are significant for various reasons, but before I dive into my thoughts, here they are for your reading pleasure:

1) Cleaner, better quality air. My students and I (and my colleagues), especially those of us affected by allergies and/or asthma, are quite miserable every day of the year due to the dust, mold, and dirty air in this school

2) A larger, more accessible classroom. As you saw, I have my students seated in groups of 4, to foster collaborative group work. However, I can barely get in between the groups to observe them more closely, and the kids don’t have any room to move.

3) A classroom that isn’t used every period of the day, so that I can be in my room during my lunch and planning time to more effectively, well, plan my lessons and grade papers! It’s very difficult to do when changing locations every couple of hours. I know travelling teachers have it way worse than me!

 

From where I sit, these are big (I would even say, “bigger”) issues. Based on what little I know of modern window-mounted AC units, they wouldn’t do squat for higher quality air. Would they? The other two issues speak to the physically cramped space within the building. Just a wild thought here, but if the building had fewer students (and fewer students per class), these last two objectives could be met quite easily, no?

 

I would be very curious to hear from more teachers. And more students. If, for instance, that these three issues were not isolated to one teacher but were in fact common for a vast majority of the people in the building, what do we do about that?

 

Another big question, to what degree is “education” and “teaching” directly affected by these obstacles? The taxpayers and voters want to know what the “bang for the buck” is in terms of passing referenda. A $300 million bond that results directly in shiny new buildings can certainly give certain members that warm fuzzy feeling, but how do we measure the real impact in educational terms?

 

As a closing note, my heart and endless thanks go out to our teachers. With sincerity, I say a big huge “THANK YOU” to all of you who teach our children, yet again without a contract (at this point in time), day in and day out, some in worse conditions than others.

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8 Responses to “What one Central teacher needs”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Is not a major question to ask the district administration is “when was the last time that the duct work within Central or any Unit 4 been thoroughly cleaned and once cleaned is there a schedule for recleaning? Next question has to do with the quality of maintenance. And last if there are A/C’s in any building are those filters cleaned every 6 months?

    As to space, I can not say often even about the determined benign neglect in purchasing properties around land locked schools. Doing so would have been an investment as rental property and land banking for any future expansion plans.

    Last but not least is based on a Labor Day Parade conversation with a former Unit 4 teacher who taught collectively 30 years at Centennial and Edison. The major take away from the conversation has to do with the comment that in that period of time no board member made an effort to understand the circumstances surrounding the district teaching staff and pertinent needs. Nor did any board member walk in the shoes of those who work in the lunch room and maintain all of the buildings. I grant that this is just one individual sharing thoughts. But 30-years is a fairly long time line of observations. It might be useful to take the comments to heart.

  2. Karen Says:

    ‘Another big question, to what degree is “education” and “teaching” directly affected by these obstacles?’
    I believe Uni is afflicted with some of the same issues as Central. Is it considered, for lack of a better term, a crisis over there?

    Where is the objective proof that ‘collaborative work’ is an effective ‘teaching’ method? Pedagogy assumes it, but, where’s the proof?

    A long-retired school teacher once told me of math: all I need is a pile of dirt and a stick to teach math. And the stick isn’t to hit them (students) with (dry humor from a woman of a generation of kids who walked long distances to school).
    Do shiny new facilities make a difference in student achievement? http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html
    ‘the district built 15 new schools and renovated 54 others. Included were nearly five dozen magnet schools, which concentrated on such things as computer science, foreign languages, environmental science, and classical Greek athletics. Those schools featured such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room; a robotics lab; professional quality recording, television, and animation studios; theaters; a planetarium; an arboretum, A ZOO!, and a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary; a two-floor library, art gallery, and film studio; a mock court with a judge’s chamber and jury deliberation room; and a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability.’

  3. pattsi Says:

    Karen, there is research concerning the effect of teaching physical environments. In addition, there is much research looking at collaborative/team learning. Read Alex Kotlowitz books, in particular The Other Side of the River.

  4. Karen Says:

    Depends on what one considers ‘research,’ I guess.

    ‘Tom describes Teacher Proof as an attempt to cut through the mythology and cargo-cult science that permeates and afflicts education. Social science has a long tradition of acting as a commentary of human experience. But done poorly, or misinterpreted, it becomes a dangerous way to justify almost anything. This is exactly what happens in education, as rhetoric and advocacy dresses itself in the gown of neutral enquiry and >>>>>borrows the accoutrements of science without bothering to conform to its more rigorous disciplines.'<<<<< (Wonderfully stated.)

    'As a teacher of ten years, Tom has been appalled by what sometimes passes for educational research, and how it so easily slips into the sphere of practical teaching – the classroom – without anything like the scrutiny it deserves.'
    http://www.routledge.com/education/articles/routledge_education_author_of_the_month_june_2013_tom_bennett/

    http://www.behaviourguru.blogspot.co.uk/#!http://behaviourguru.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-second-coming-of-ken-robinson-but.html

    'These theories are widely thought to be grounded in the latest neuroscience. In fact, there is zero science to support them. They are assertions that are essentially untestable – and the evidence that they can make classroom teaching more effective simply does not exist.'
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/classroom-fads-and-magic-beans/article14168845/

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Karen, the Cato Policy Analysis I found to be hitting the nail on the head – when it breaks down to “common tongue” language, it all becomes a matter of common sense, in my opinion. I especially like one of his concluding points:

    “As Hanushek saw it, the real problem in American public education wasn’t so much financial as structural. There were no incentives in the current system to improve student performance–nothing rested on whether students achieved or not. The KCMSD should have been looking at incentives to increase academic productivity, such as merit pay, charter school vouchers, rewards for successful teachers, and penalties for unsuccessful ones.”

    It amazes me how easily we get distracted with “Big Issues” (R) like race, racism and desegregation. I do not mean to say that they are small and insignificant issues, but rather that there is something deeper we need to look at. Deeper and more systemic (almost like identifying institutional racism). Like, are we willing to sacrifice a little so that another (or 10, 100 others) may benefit?

    What does bother me is the penchant to point fingers and lay blame at the feet of others. Even the judge in the Kansas City case blames the school district. Call me naive, but I think it would make more sense to take a more objective look at the causes for the current situation and move the emotional arguments (not remove completely, but offload) to the sphere of human relationships; for while we are being “scientific” in analyzing trends and root causes, we must also recognize and acknowledge that people are valuable and have inherent worth.

    For the both of you, I hope I have made it well known by know that I am not a big fan of research. 🙂 Of course, I say that with qualifications, but overall, I don’t really care what some PhD found to be true in 50 other cases around the world, I want to know what works here and now. And part of the problem is defining “what works”, for 10 people will probably give you 10 different answers. And that I do not know how to address. For me, if we can show a trend of 1) fewer people going to jail, correlated to 2) more folks finding some form of employment, I think that might be my measure of something working.

    Which is why I very much support the up and coming Cradle to Career initiative. It is very much in line with early childhood learning and literacy initiatives that get kids on a certain par by 8 years old (or 3rd grade). More on that later.

  6. pattsi Says:

    Humbug–research is that done with random assignment–that is quantitat,ive. As I have written previously, the two experimental economists in the family disregard anything not random. On the other hand, one gets to quant research through a foundation of good method qualitative research.

    Charles, sorry, one has no idea what works if one does not do research. One might think A and B are the correlation when with further and random research it might turn out to be A correlates with C and D. The CB passes 8M dollars to the CCMHB and CCDB without one shred of research to indicate whether the programs are effective and if so, which one. Now this is 8M of your tax dollars. So how do you feel about research now?

  7. charlesdschultz Says:

    We must be talking about two utterly different kinds of research, then. I still find it fascinating that, given we have a Big Tenleventwelve Research University, nobody knows what exactly works best for Unit 4 schools (or even Urbana for that matter). I am not familiar with the kind of research that keeps a process or program accountable to its stated goals.

    In a twisted sort of way, I guess we are implicitly conducting an experiment, one that asks the question “with little community collaboration towards a common goal, what will happen?”

  8. charlesdschultz Says:

    @Karen, you asked “I believe Uni is afflicted with some of the same issues as Central. Is it considered, for lack of a better term, a crisis over there?”

    According to a friend who has a child there currently, “Uni High has window-unit air conditioning in all offices and classroom spaces. Only the hallway areas are not air-conditioned.”


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