Kitchen > PrivateWebHome > WebLog > ShowYourWork
24 Mar 2006 - 22:40

More Emails to the Principal this week, poor thing.

Our story so far

We left our heroes crossing the desolate, wind-swept lands of a four-hour scale drawing with trapezoids.

Yes, it took four hours, but they made it.

They reached their destiny.

Wednesday, the scale drawing came back.

Triumph!

A 98!

Just one tiny, two-point mistake!

The first and only Success of the Year in Ms. K's Phase 4 Accelerated Death March to Algebra Math Class!

And then the agony

Christopher failed to show his work.

Not all of his work.

He showed the formulas.

but

He failed to show the mental math.

For instance.

The scale was one square = one foot. So, if the bed was 6 feet, Christopher would say to himself, '6 feet equals 6 squares' and then draw a 6-square line on the grid. [NOTE: SEE UPDATE BELOW]

What he didn't do, because his father is apparently incapable of reading directions (did I just say that?),* was write down 6 feet equals 6 squares on a separate piece of paper.

BIG MISTAKE!

BIG FREAKING MISTAKE!

BIG FREAKING WHAT-THE-HELL-WERE-YOU-THINKING MISTAKE!

78

"I'm sorry, I have to take off 20 points."

She's sorry!

She had to take off 20 points!

For not writing down mental math!

She wishes she didn't have to take off 20 points, but she does!

It's the law!

And she's sorry!

Well........

Hey.

That makes two of us.

I'm sorry, too!

I'm so sorry I'm going to have to write you a rude and peremptory email telling you what a boneheaded move it is to take off 20 points on a FOUR-HOUR ASSIGNMENT the kid got completely right except for the computer monitor (a trapezoid, pls. note) which, as you say, is not part of the floor area and thus should not be added into the floor area total.

Two points off for thinking the computer monitor is part of the floor area — that's fair.

Twenty points off for not writing down mental math — BONEHEADED.

It's especially boneheaded when we're talking about a FOUR-HOUR ASSIGNMENT sent home over SPRING BREAK that was WAY TOO HARD for the kids to do on their own and consequently ate up FOUR HOURS of parent-supervision time, not to mention FOUR HOURS of we-could-have-been-studying-for-the-state-test time.

I am SO incredibly sorry you had to take off 20 points on the ONE math assignment my math-beleaguered child managed to ace this school year that not only am I sending you a rude & peremptory email, my husband is sending you his own rude and peremptory email, too. That's sorry!

In fact, we're so sorry we're not even finished being sorry.

Which means just one thing: It's Email to the principal time.

Two emails to the principal time.

One from I'm Sorry Dad, and one from I'm Sorry Mom.

And I'm Sorry Mom's email is long and detailed.

This will all be discussed and resolved on Monday

So we hear.

coda

Remember back when Christopher started liking math?

After I'd spent a year reteaching the material he didn't learn in 4th grade using a superb, incremental, step-by-step curriculum that gives children consistent experiences of mastery and success?

Remember 'I like the idea of math'?

Remember 'I like bar models'?

Remember 'I love you, Mommy, because you help me with my math and L's mom doesn't help him'?

That's all over now.

Seven months with Ms. K, seven months of hard, slogging, rote-memorization and bad grades, and we're back to square one.

update

I double-checked with Ed.

The scale they used, plainly written on the first page of the project, was 1 square = 1/2 foot.

As far as I'm concerned - and I've progressed far enough in math teaching here at home to trust my opinion on this - a student who can calculate a proportion of 1/2 = 1 square mentally has demonstrated more fluency in math skills than a student who has to write the proportion down.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

* update

Ed didn't understand the directions.

I've read them now, too, and I don't understand them, either. I would have interpreted them differently than Ed did, and asked Christopher to show more work than Ed did. But I have no idea whether my understanding would have earned back those 20 points, either.

More on that later.

Suffice it to say, Ms. K. has never given her students a model of a solution she would deem both correct and complete.

This was a significant problem last school year, when parents were so angry about the chronic distress their children were suffering (6th graders were bringing home test grades of 20 and 30), that the administration had to insist the principal meet with parents to discuss the problems after he had refused to do so. One mother's voice broke when she asked her question. "I want to know what you're going to do to repair our children's self-esteem?"

Lisa Urban, then chair of the math department, fielded that question. (I took notes.)

"What I want to know," she said, with a bemused look on her face, "is why do your children have such fragile self-esteem?"

And that was that.

One of the reasons children were being given grades of 20 and 30 was that they weren't showing their work. This happened time and again.

Those parents don't seem to have found "failed to show his work" any more satisfying by way of explanation than we do. One mom I know said, "This is March. Why don't these children know what 'show your work' means by now?"

Now here it is, March, again. And my child does not know what 'show your work' means.

I'm sure Ms. K. believes, as the principal seems to believe, that the meaning of the words 'show your work' is self-evident.

I was surprised to discover that in fact the meaning of 'show your work,' like so many other things, is not self-evident.

The bottom line: we don't know how Ms. K. arrived at the 20-point deduction.

At this point, the principal feels he is within his rights not to tell us.

Character Education in Irvington

-- CatherineJohnson - 24 Mar 2006

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Wait, have they done NO MATH AT ALL for the last month? Have they wasted an entire month prepping for the state test?

-- GoogleMaster - 24 Mar 2006

It was two weeks.

No.

Wait.

It was three weeks.

Two weeks of not-really-studying-for-the-state-test, then two days of taking the state test, then 1 day of observing pi day.... and that's pretty much 3 weeks.

-- CatherineJohnson - 25 Mar 2006

Now they're doing prime factorization.

Which they learned in 5th grade.

I asked Christopher why they were doing prime factorization and he said, 'Because she said some of the kids can't do it.'

AND I SAID: SHE'S FINDING THIS OUT NOW?

IN MARCH?

-- CatherineJohnson - 25 Mar 2006

Actually, that was nice, because this is something Christopher can do — plus I taught him the RUSSIAN MATH way of prime factoring a number, AND IT TURNS OUT that his teacher uses the Russian math way, too, "except she doesn't put in the line," so he's the one kid in the class who can PRIME FACTOR NUMBERS THE WAY RUSSIAN MATH PRIME FACTORS NUMBERS.....

It just burns me up.

It takes so little to make these kids feel OK about math, about learning math; it takes so little to make them feel like the whole enterprise is possible....

ALL decent behavioral programs alternate new material with mastered material just to give kids the feeling of success, of being able to do something and do it well.

-- CatherineJohnson - 25 Mar 2006

20 points off for not writing down the obvious?

If he had gotten the wrong answer but wrote down the mental math would he have had a higher score?

That's nucking futs.

-- BarryGarelick - 25 Mar 2006

I'm also guessing he missed out on the extra credit by not writing about how he felt about those numbers he'd written down. Extra bonus points for writing about a group that has been traditionally oppressed by the numbers.

-- KDeRosa - 25 Mar 2006

I asked Christopher why they were doing prime factorization and he said, 'Because she said some of the kids can't do it.'

I think you're going to see a lot more of this "going back" as time goes on since these skills are being pushed onto the middle school teachers more and more. This has been going on in my son's class. That, plus preparing for ISATs by having to remember how they would have solved a math problem 2 years earlier.

So he had written the scale of 1 square equals 1 foot, right? But he didn't then just write down the obvious 6 squares =6 feet? And he lost 20 points? Did I read that right?

The busywork aspect of some of this amazes me. I also think it's good when the status quo is challenged like what you're doing since so many of these schools have such an insular nature about them. I sense every day that groupthink is incredibly powerful at times and they can easily brush off complaints from parents who they don't believe know anything.

-- SusanS - 25 Mar 2006

"The busywork aspect of some of this amazes me."

Like much of education, it's all about process, rather than results.

-- OldGrouch - 25 Mar 2006

"It takes so little to make these kids feel OK about math, about learning math; it takes so little to make them feel like the whole enterprise is possible...."

I think the converse is true as well . . . that it takes so little to make kids feel NOT OK about math. That, to me, would seem to be the effect and the harm of Ms. Kahl's 20 point penalty. I am so with you on this--I'm afraid I would have been so angry that I would have just gone through the roof if I were in your shoes.

I agree with SusanS? as to how important it is that you are challenging the status quo.

-- KarenA - 25 Mar 2006

"So he had written the scale of 1 square equals 1 foot, right? But he didn't then just write down the obvious 6 squares =6 feet? And he lost 20 points? Did I read that right?"

Be reasonable; yer expectin' Mrs. Kahl to realise that 1 square = 1 foot implies 6 squares = 6 feet. That there's advanced maths, fer sure!

-- VerghisKoshi - 26 Mar 2006

Susan

I think you're going to see a lot more of this "going back" as time goes on since these skills are being pushed onto the middle school teachers more and more.

hah!

I'm planning YET ANOTHER post ont his subject....I'm pretty sure she only figured it out because they graded the state test themselves.

I assume they graded the state test (the multiple choice part), discovered that some (or many?) of the Phase 4 kids missed the LCD - GCF problem(s), and she realized she had to re-teach.

IN MARCH

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

Susan

So he had written the scale of 1 square equals 1 foot, right? But he didn't then just write down the obvious 6 squares =6 feet? And he lost 20 points? Did I read that right?

This teacher is opaque, to put it mildly. That was a HUGE part of the fight last year. The Math Revolution meeting happened in March, when the kids were still losing vast amounts of credit on tests for 'not showing their work.'

One of the moms said, 'How come it's MARCH and these kids don't know what showing their work means?'

I never did find out what it would mean to show your work on the other problems he got dinged for way back when (was that subtraction of negative numbers??)....nor did she ever tell the kids what 'showing your work' was going to mean on the state test. Not one single example according to Christopher, and in this case I believe him (I don't think it's a question of interpretation; plus I asked the same question of his friend & got the same answer).

I was thinking she wanted formal proportion problems set up and solved for each line he drew, and maybe that's it.

But then Ed told me how simple the scale was.

It doesn't make sense to write out proportions when you've got a 1-to-1 scale.

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

I just asked Ed: yes, they wrote the scale. It was on the front page.

The scale was 1 square for each HALF foot (not foot).

Still, an 'accelerated' kid (haha) should be able to do - should be REQUIRED to do - a scale of 1 to 1/2 in his head.

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

Barry

20 points off for not writing down the obvious?

If he had gotten the wrong answer but wrote down the mental math would he have had a higher score?

That's nucking futs.

GOOD POINT!

THAT'S GOING IN THE EMAIL-TO-THE-PRINCIPAL!

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

Karen A

I think the converse is true as well . . . that it takes so little to make kids feel NOT OK about math. That, to me, would seem to be the effect and the harm of Ms. Kahl's 20 point penalty.

of course that's the way I feel.....

I wonder whether I'd be more sanguine about the whole thing if Christopher weren't my first and only 'typical' child.

That's a funny thing in this household.

Because we have TWO autistic kids, we're old hands at autism. Crazed Andrew behaviors that terrify his teacher - like coming out of the bathroom while still pulling his pants up - don't faze us. We've already been through it; we know it goes away.

(Of course, Jimmy has of late developed an obsession with pulling his pants down and touching the kitchen utensils to his naked penis.....that one even got to Temple, who's seen it all. I guess my point is: a) we know Andrew won't still be coming out of bathrooms still pulling his pants up with he's 18, and b) we also know it can always be worse.)

OK, back on topic.

Christopher is the one and only typical child we've raised.

Maybe we're taking all of this too seriously, but since we don't know, and since we really can't know.....we're taking it seriously.

Err on the side of caution and all that.

Constantly, with our middle school, we see Christopher doing his best, trying his best, taking pride in his best, and then getting knocked down & called 'stupid' by his friends.

This happens on a weekly if not daily basis.

I'm against it, PERIOD.

It happens to the other kids, too.

Last week they got their grades on the Jason Project.

I think the Jason Project is a crock, not to put too fine a point on it. As far as I can tell, the JASON Project is an educational product manufactured by an educational entrepreneur, otherwise known as a VENDOR.

I'm a capitalist in case noone's noticed; I believe in entrpreneurship, support it, like it.

BUT let's call a spade a spade. JASON is a product marketed to schools.

One of the kids in Christopher's class put his heart and soul into JASON. He worked very, very hard. The JASON museum we all went to made clear that most of the kids' parents had gone to Michael's, bought the styrofoam solar system kit, and spray-painted it.

Then their kids turned it in.

This boy spent at least 9 hours working on his project.

Then he got an A-, the same grade everyone else got.

He was crying.

Crying at school, where all the kids saw him crying, and probably all the kids teased him about crying. (Christopher felt bad about it.)

OK, a kid 'shouldn't' cry over an A-.

But I don't feel that way. He worked hard; he put his heart into the project; he did something (almost) no one else did.

Why shouldn't he have his A?

Why shouldn't he have the recognition he wanted?

I pretty much said this in my rude-and-peremptory email to Ms. Kahl. I said I'd 'learned my lesson.'

It would have been a better use of our time, and Christopher would have had a better grade, if I'd spent an hour doing the assignment myself, start to finish, and then had Christopher copy the thing over.

Instead Christopher and his dad spent four hours painstakingly doing the whole thing. Christopher did all of it, under supervision.

Then he gets smacked down again.

Enough.

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

I picked up a copy of this book at the COOP.

It has some extremely negative reviews on Amazon, and if she really did call Giuliani, in the aftermath of 9/11, 'just a cheerleader' she's off her rocker.

I may end up feeling impatient with the book, but the opening pages do express what's missing in Christopher's 6th grade experience overall.

The school, as a whole, feels like and reads like sink or swim. Other parents have said the same.

It doesn't feel like or read like a "winning team" where team members are confident in themselves and in each other.

It's that sink-or-swim feeling that keeps parents like us in Helicopter Mode.

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

Whatever the problem is, yes, we'll keep pushing them on things like 20-points-off-for-not-writing-down-mental-math.

It's the only way.

When you repeat yourself often enough (and they've heard this particular message from MANY other parents) it sinks in.

-- CatherineJohnson - 26 Mar 2006

I've had some similar situations where I felt my son was getting chastised more than he deserved, but since it's been happening alot I've found that it really is MY opinion that most concerns him.

He also worked very hard (hours and hours) on a project and I was a bit miffed at his grade, but when I indicated to him how much I thought of his work and how the preparation and process benefitted him far beyond the grade, I could tell he was going to be okay. It's not a bad thing to get "away" from the teacher and grades a bit, without being disrespectful, of course. They're human. But sometimes you jump through hoops and sometimes you may not know why, but later you will. Sometimes, yes, they are just stupid hoops.

I think it can help them in the resilience department for the future. Life will be unfair. They will more than likely have more nasty teachers, and nasty bosses for that matter.

Anyway, he and I have talked about these things ad nauseam this year because, unfortunately, the assumption is that if the kid is smart or gifted, then he should be organized, punctual, mature, neat, etc. all of the time, also.

btw, my son tears up in school on occasion, also, over what seems like the silliest things. The teachers always mention that to me like he needs medication or something. Yeah, whatever.

-- SusanS - 26 Mar 2006

I always thought that showing your work was only useful to prove you didn't cheat and to get partial credit when your answer is wrong.

And, the amount of steps you need to show is inversely proportional to the obviousness of the step. If the child is confident in a step that can be performed accurately mentally, writing that step should be optional. For a middle schooler -- writing down 6 x 1 = 6 seems to safely fall into this category.

-- KDeRosa - 26 Mar 2006

"The school, as a whole, feels like and reads like sink or swim. Other parents have said the same."

"Sink or swim" might be construed to imply interest, a master plan, something along those lines. IMHO, what you're seeing is self-absorbed indifference on the part of the teachers. Very typical of union workers; punch the clock, turn the page, collect a paycheck. Results? Who cares?

-- VerghisKoshi - 26 Mar 2006

I always thought that showing your work was only useful to prove you didn't cheat and to get partial credit when your answer is wrong.

I'm NEVER going to say 'NO COMMON SENSE-Y' about me & mine again.

Next to the Irvington middle school, we are paragons of pragmatism and good sense.

That goes double for Andrew & Jimmy.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

"Sink or swim" might be construed to imply interest, a master plan, something along those lines. IMHO, what you're seeing is self-absorbed indifference on the part of the teachers. Very typical of union workers; punch the clock, turn the page, collect a paycheck. Results? Who cares?

THIS WOMAN IS UP FOR TENURE THIS YEAR!!!!

IS THIS THE YEAR TO TICK OFF TWO WRITER-EDUCATOR-PROFESSOR PARENTS????

NO!

IT IS NOT!

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

Susan

You know, I was thinking the same thing you were - this is teaching resiliency.

But I've just had a personal experience (I've changed agents) that's shocked me out of that idea.

My former agent is quite negative. (My new agent tells me that shop is known for yelling at clients!)

This means that every word I write takes me closer to being stomped.

Naturally I pride myself on being resilient, tenacious, yadda-yadda-yadda....I have to have these qualities or I couldn't raise two autistic kids.

So I was 'being resilient' with my agent.

Meanwhile I was thinking I wanted to quit writing; I wanted to change careers; I was burned-out, etc.

THIS IS WHILE I HAVE A BESTSELLER SITTING ON THE LIST FOR 10 WEEKS!

When I finally left my agent last week, I was stunned to discover that - gosh! - I'm not burned out.

I'm not sick of writing.

(OK, I'm a little sick of writing....)

I'm going to sound like a New Age maven here, but I can't help it: negative people and negative organizations suck the life right out of you.

Carolyn says it's 'friction,' in the physics sense of the term (I think it's physics!)

She's right.

When Christopher constantly fails at math - and by 'fails' I mean gets a grade of C or B after intense effort and study - he checks out.

He is right to check out.

We're built to 'learn' from life; we're built to learn that when a particular activity brings you nothing but punishment, it's the wrong activity.

Resilience is a critical attribute; we all need it.

But remember when Carolyn said she didn't want Ben learning social skills IN MATH???

That's where I am.

Christopher is going to HAVE to be resilient and tenacious. You can't have two autistic siblings and not be.

But I don't want him learning resilience and tenacity in 6th grade math.

And I CERTAINLY don't want to pay a brand new teacher who can't teach math to teach him character.

I'm done.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

I am in awe. There are reasons to homeschool, and reasons not to public school. One of my reasons not to is that I'm not sure I have it in me to bull through the mediocrity and bureaucracy of the public school system.

Catherine, I absolutely admire you for your tenacity in demanding a quality education for your sons. I have no doubt that whether you keep fighting the good fight at the public school or decide to keep Chris home for school that you will make it work. If your children don't already know how lucky they are, I am certain they will.

-- LesleyStevens - 27 Mar 2006

I know you're right, Catherine. I'm sure I sit here too long and do nothing at times (other than some low level, don't-ruffle-any-feathers complaining and some reactive teaching, which has helped immensely to ease the feeling of helplessness, but isn't the same thing as really doing something about it.)

That's really interesing (and fantastic) about the agent switch. Good for you. You flipped your sneakers over your shoulder and left Hem and Haw back at the ranch. (did I get the right mice?)

I'm curious about the principal's reaction.

-- SusanS - 27 Mar 2006

oh gosh, Lesley, thanks!

I have no doubt that whether you keep fighting the good fight at the public school or decide to keep Chris home for school that you will make it work. If your children don't already know how lucky they are, I am certain they will.

Actually, he probably has this idea now. I've been meaning to put up a post about it.....the school tests all the kids to determine their 'learning style.'

They got their results back a little while ago, and he remembers 4 things from his:

• he doesn't like 'hands-on,' field trips, or acting out and drama-type learning

• he likes structured assignments the teacher has outlined

• he isn't motivated to 'please his teacher' (I'm sure that one has immeasurably improved our standing in the school)

• he likes to study and learn with his parents

I was stunned to find out he'd tested high on 'likes to learn with parents'

Stunned but happy

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

The principal was horrible, Ed said. I didn't talk to him. Combative, defensive, etc.

Determined to 'stand up for' his faculty member; this is one of his claims to fame (he's said so a number of times).

Awful.

Ed's furious to the point of wanting to look at private schools WHICH IS INSANE.

This is a guy who loathes debt now thinking about incurring MORE MORE debt rather than have his kid learn at home for one semester.

That's the other thing about lousy school situations; the stress on your marriage is high, too.

We'll weather it; if two kids with autism didn't do us in, Irvington Middle School doesn't have a prayer.

But it's MORE FRICTION.

Which I could do without.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

oh golly, the agent move was SO overdue.

my 'ex' is kind of a hoot; I'd probably enjoy living next door to her. she's a whirlwind.

But she was hell as an agent.

The other thing I wasn't realizing — which I've seen just this week — is that other people didn't want to work with her at all.

Of course, I knew this......I'd been told many times.

And yet I hadn't stopped to think that the fact that I could deal with her didn't mean other people could, or that they were motivated to want to deal with her.

Basically this last week made me see that you can be positive or you can be negative, and positive is better.

Ed told the principal that when he has a student who has been struggling, and that student finally does something right, he grades more generously, not less generously.

He wants any student who is struggling to do better.

Ms. K is a hanging judge.

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

They left it that Scott (principal) is going to 'ask' Ms. K. why she took off 20 points.

As opposed to, say, 5 points.

Ed told Scott, 'I don't want to hear that she took off 20 points because she 'had to' or because 'the state tests require you to show your work.'

He can be seriously obnoxious.

(I'm talking Ed, now.)

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

The principal's main concern was that we had not been 'cordial.'

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

I'm going to start signing all of my emails 'Cordially yours.'

-- CatherineJohnson - 27 Mar 2006

I was not allowed to switch classes for a better geometry teacher in high school because, my parents were told, my "attitude" was not good.

Guess I wasn't cordial enough when she didn't do anything except sit there and had us put problems up on the board and then had us read the book for the next lesson.

But high school was better than elementary. A lot of rules that made no sense, and a lot of stuff about "sharing" (I hate the word "share") and pictures of kids in a parade, some of whom are clearly foreign or African-American with the question: "How many 'friends' in the parade?" (Hint, the non-white's are 'friends').

The principal was an alcoholic who was given some time in jail for drunken driving (she killed someone), and when she got out, the school reinstated her as principal.

I think Catholic school is an option you should seriously consider.

F*** this c*** they're giving you. And then write an article about it, don't change any names, and get it published. Pronto!

-- BarryGarelick - 28 Mar 2006

He is right to check out.

Basically this last week made me see that you can be positive or you can be negative, and positive is better.

My experience is that really the only thing to do with persistently negative people is to give up and move away. Whenever I've tried to make a persistently negative person positive I've wound up making myself negative. The energy runs downhill.

Sometimes moving away temporarily, and returning when the person is more positive works. Eventually it trains said person into being positive around you.

This is obviously difficult to do when you're a school student of compulsory age.

What is it about negativity that is so endless anyway?

-- TracyW - 28 Mar 2006

"The principal's main concern was that we had not been 'cordial.'"

I'm inclined to suspect that he's plucking this out of thin air because he doesn't have anything solid. That's a tactical choice.

-- VerghisKoshi - 28 Mar 2006

Check the Teacher Scoring Guides on your friendly state web page:

That's what the state requires.

-- KtmGuest - 28 Mar 2006

I'm inclined to suspect that he's plucking this out of thin air because he doesn't have anything solid. That's a tactical choice.

Absolutely. They always go after how you said something. That takes up at least of few hours before you can get to the meat of the complaint.

I'm sure you know that one of the dynamics going on here is that you have already "taken out" one teacher and now it looks like you're gunning for another. Right or wrong, they're circling the wagons.

-- SusanS - 28 Mar 2006

"Ed's furious to the point of wanting to look at private schools WHICH IS INSANE."

If your area is like ours, it's a no-win situation. The expectations might be higher in private school, but you will see much of the same fuzziness and pedagogy. Is it worth \$10,000 to \$15,000++ per year? No. (Private schools have their share of barely competent teachers.) But what is the cost of keeping a child in public school. Some of our friends brought their kids back from private school to public school and just made up the difference. They told us: "You'll see." when we put our son into private school. I do see (more clearly) now, but we won't bring him back. We may complain about the money, but it is better. (not great, e.g. Everyday Math)

It's all about choices and all of the choices are not good. We need more choices.

-- SteveH - 28 Mar 2006

SteveH? said:

"If your area is like ours, it's a no-win situation. "

This is exactly what we've found. Right now my son has a science teacher who seemed unperturbed when I pointed out that her text claims that the time it takes for the Earth to go around the Sun is a revolution, as opposed to a year. Also an English teacher (a native-born white woman) who has as tenuous a grip on English as on her temper. Her self-esteem is in good shape, though.

-- VerghisKoshi - 28 Mar 2006

Absolutely. They always go after how you said something. That takes up at least of few hours before you can get to the meat of the complaint.

Ed blew it. (I probably came close to blowing it, but not necessarly...)

His email really was over the top.

He's just had it. He's really at the end. (Well, no one's ever at the end! There's always more where that came from!)

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Ktm Guest

Thanks so much — I'll check again, but I've looked through those things AT LENGTH and didn't find the answer I needed.

(I'll take a quick look again...)

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

I've never seen this before. Ever.

Now I'm wondering why not. I have this page bookmarked; I've printed this stuff out more than once; I gave Christopher the sample test (and posted items from it on ktm)....I don't remember a teacher scoring guide ever being here

[pause]

ah

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

The state tests were March 14th and March 15.

I would have killed to have this scoring guide.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

well.....I'll have it next year.

Thanks!

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Guess I wasn't cordial enough when she didn't do anything except sit there and had us put problems up on the board and then had us read the book for the next lesson.

But high school was better than elementary. A lot of rules that made no sense, and a lot of stuff about "sharing" (I hate the word "share") and pictures of kids in a parade, some of whom are clearly foreign or African-American with the question: "How many 'friends' in the parade?" (Hint, the non-white's are 'friends').

The principal was an alcoholic who was given some time in jail for drunken driving (she killed someone), and when she got out, the school reinstated her as principal.

I think Catholic school is an option you should seriously consider.

F*** this c*** they're giving you. And then write an article about it, don't change any names, and get it published. Pronto!

I just have to have that in here TWICE.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

I have to say.......why doesn't it occur to people that I'm a writer?

I mean......until this week I thought this principal walked on water because he pulled Christopher out of Mrs. R's class.

When I like a person everyone hears about it. I've been banging the drum for this guy, especially since I assume he's not the normal sort of person our new superintendent would hire.

Now he's on my s-list.

Why would you want to get on my s-list when I'm so vocal about how great you are. (Which he knows, btw.)

It's just lousy management.

He needed to smooth the waters, agree with 'both sides,' then get Ms. Kahl to bump the C to a B.....and close the book.

Instead he's on record saying the state test made him do it.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Which is the WORST CONCEIVABLE THING HE COULD HAVE SAID, because parents here LOATHE the state tests.

Ed and I are probably the only two parents in all of Westchester County who approve of state tests.

The instant we quote this to other parents, and we'll quote it far and wide,......he'll be the principal who caves to the state test.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Plus I'm a freaking writer.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Any administrator has to know that, and do that.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

My experience is that really the only thing to do with persistently negative people is to give up and move away. Whenever I've tried to make a persistently negative person positive I've wound up making myself negative. The energy runs downhill.

That's been my experience.

This is what's causing me to think seriously about homeschooling &/or private school (which will aggravate me no end. Imagine just how happy I'm going to be the minute the head honcho of our \$26,000 private school starts in with your-child-in-7th-grade-not-you).

What I've picked up over the years is that the middle school is the problem child of the Irvington district. There've been many principals, lots of parent complaints, etc.

Scott is apparently supposed to turn it around, or so he indicated.

That's a big job, and I don't think it's going to happen in the next two years.

I think it's fair for me to say, at this point, that the middle school simply has a 'negative' culture. There's just a lot of b*s, a lot of angst, a lot of churning and burning......it's not a happy place.

This is the third school we've been in, and the other two were cheerful, sunny, always focused on the kids.....whatever their shortcomings educationally may have been, the feeling inside the building was good.

The language was good.

This principal has told me at least 3 times now, I'm very protective of my staff.

No one anywhere else in the system has ever said any such thing.

Ever.

It would be unthinkable.

To tell a parent that you are 'protective of your staff' is to say: you are the adversary.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

I'm sure you know that one of the dynamics going on here is that you have already "taken out" one teacher and now it looks like you're gunning for another. Right or wrong, they're circling the wagons.

oh yeah, that was clear

Irvington parents are hell to deal with, or so I'm told (often)

This was an easy situation to quell; it could have been win-win.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think many of the Irvington parents have become pod people. Plus you don't control the money, so Fried thinks he can afford to blow you off.

You may be able to wake some people up, but it's going to take some work. In the meantime, what does he care?

-- VerghisKoshi - 29 Mar 2006

He hasn't got tenure, either, and was very upset when we went over his head about the Xmas Bomb (that was the horrible mid-quarter review that was delivered to people's homes ON CHRISTMAS EVE! There were couples exploding all over town!)

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Our problem isn't pod people, though we do have a SURFEIT of fundraising.

Irvington parents, we hear, are on the verge of Open Revolt; there's mass upset. Mass, mass, mass. We hear this everywhere (and lately we've taking to asking people: "Is everyone upset? Is that your impression?" The answer is yes.)

That may even be our problem: people are upset.

I don't think well when I'm upset, and it's hard for me even to identify what I'm upset about.

With this 20 points business, yes, I'm upset about the 20 points. It's ridiculous. But it comes at the end of......SO MUCH STUFF. Constant work, constant non-reward for constant work, constant strife with Christopher.....you probably know what I'm talking about. It's the last straw. (Which is why I wrote a semi-rude and peremptory email to the teacher, and why Ed wrote an outright condescending and order-giving email; we've both just had it. Emotionally, we've moved past the point of wanting to be cordial.)

The fact is, I can't tell what the hell is wrong here, and I suspect a lot of people are in the same boat.There's widespread unhappiness, frustration, and anger.

Here's an example. A couple of days ago I was driving some kids around and one of them said his folks weren't going to vote for school board because 'It can't get any worse.'

That's not even logical.

(I don't think....)

Plus there's no one running for the school board.

When you've got kids telling you their parents think things can't get any worse, you have to conclude there are Numerous Not Happy conversations going on inside people's houses.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

ONE MORE THING!

A friend of ours told us that, as he sees it (he lives in a complex with TONS of parents) half the town's parents are furious about the state test; the other half are furious that the school is mediocre.

He said he switches back and forth between sides.

This is the thing.

I made a stab at Starting A Group, but then didn't follow through.....which doesn't get you much of a group, now, does it?

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Unfortunately, I make a great second in command.

We need a first in command.

-- CatherineJohnson - 29 Mar 2006

Unfortunately, I make a great second in command.

The guy behind the guy, whispering in his ear.

-- KDeRosa - 29 Mar 2006

Check out what Ms. Frizzle has to say about her training session on learning to score state-administered math tests for sixth graders. Here's the link to her blog:

-- KarenA - 31 Mar 2006

Ask to see the policy Scott mentioned in his email.

Ask to see the scoring sheet for the assignment.

Then, check his homework. Did she demonstrate what was expected in her lessons? Was his classroom work marked down for not showing mental calculations? Was it every corrected? addressed?

-- SmartestTractor - 31 Mar 2006

Also, did every student lost 20 points for not showing calculations?

-- AnneDwyer - 31 Mar 2006

"Also, did every student lost 20 points for not showing calculations?"

This sounds like a test where you could get a negative grade but have all correct answers.

When I taught college math, I would tell my students that I wanted to see their work. Depending on the difficulty of the problem, I had to see their work or they would not get the credit for a correct answer. This was for problems that even I probably couldn't do in my head. If the problem (or step) was (fairly) easy, then I didn't care. I told them that if they didn't want any questions, they should show their work. I told them that this was in their best interest. I would give them partial credit if I could see any sort of glimmer of proper algebraic thinking. (I got very good at deciphering scribbles.)

If the answer was wrong, then I worked the partial credit up from zero by looking at their work. If there is no work, then there is nothing I could do. If the answer was correct, then I would have to have a STRONG reason to deny full credit. There were some that had all wrong work, but magically had the correct answer. And some just had the right answer and no work. I warned them that unless the problem was fairly simple, I had to see the work or I would mark it wrong. I agonized over these problems. There has to be VERY GOOD reasons for taking off credit for not showing mental math calculations.

"The scale they used, plainly written on the first page of the project, was 1 square = 1/2 foot."

By the way, this makes no sense. A square refers to an area, but 1/2 foot is a length. Are they trying to say that the length of a side of the square is 1/2 foot? Scale factors in engineering are always written as something like: 1 inch equals one mile".

-- SteveH - 31 Mar 2006

thanks, KarenA?, for the link to ms. frizzle;
it's been too long since i looked at her page.
here, for archival purposes, is the entry you cited:
There's this line that you cross ...

-- VlorbikDotCom - 31 Mar 2006

Catherine: "Carolyn says it's 'friction,' in the physics sense of the term (I think it's physics!)"

You might be interested in this bit from Clausewitz's "Vom Kriege" ("On War"). It's from Book 1, Chapter 7, "Friction in War":

Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction, which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war. Suppose now a traveller, who, towards evening, expects to accomplish the two stages at the end of his day's journey, four or five leagues, with post horses, on the high road—it is nothing. He arrives now at the last station but one, finds no horses, or very bad ones; then a hilly country, bad roads; it is a dark night, and he is glad when, after a great deal of trouble, he reaches the next station, and finds there some miserable accommodation. So in war, through the influence of an infinity of petty circumstances, which cannot properly be described on paper, things disappoint us, and we fall short of the mark. A powerful iron will overcomes this friction, it crushes the obstacles, but certainly the machine along with them. We shall often meet with this result. Like an obelisk, towards which the principal streets of a place converge, the strong will of a proud spirit, stands prominent and commanding, in the middle of the art of war.

-- DougSundseth - 01 Apr 2006

TracyW?: "Sometimes moving away temporarily, and returning when the person is more positive works. Eventually it trains said person into being positive around you."

That's a concept that could profitably be taught. I stumbled across that sort of behaviour (stet, I'm being linguistically inclusive here) modification, but it sure took me a long time.

My relationship with my dad is much better now.

-- DougSundseth - 01 Apr 2006

hi you guys — must take Andrew to KUMON — then will read & digest everything you've said — thank you!

-- CatherineJohnson - 01 Apr 2006

Steve

The scale they used, plainly written on the first page of the project, was 1 square = 1/2 foot.

We wrote that ourselves.

How does one write this?

1 side of one square = 1/2 foot?

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Apr 2006

Last night I was saying that the middle school, at base, is simply a negative place.

If you counted up the number of negatives - just the negative things people say - and compared them to the number of positives you'd be way out of whack towards the negative.

WAY out of whack.

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Apr 2006

The guy behind the guy, whispering in his ear.

I AM THAT GUY!

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Apr 2006

Actually, I'm a terrific Yes Man.

At NAAR, my instant impulse, with every new idea, was: THAT'S A GREAT IDEA!

Then everyone else would dump cold water over the new idea and I'd reconsider.

Of course, plenty of good ideas got destroyed that way.

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Apr 2006

One of the people I was frequently at loggerheads with was upset when I left because he felt I'd been one of his supporters!

I was stunned when I heard this, but when I thought about it, it was true.

I always thought this guy was creative (I was right) and my first impulse with his ideas was to support them.

Often I was wrong and the rest of the board was right. But I can see where this particular board member saw me as an advocate or ally.

-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Apr 2006